By Jawid Omid and Abdul Haleem
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- "It was two years ago when a man gave me a heavy bag tied with wires and connected to a button. The man told me that whenever I see security forces around I should get closer and press the button," Sami Ullah said when interviewed recently by Xinhua in Sarpoza, a prison in Kandahar City in southern Afghanistan, the former stronghold of the Taliban.
Sami is among dozens of Afghan teenagers who have been jailed for involvement in various crimes including robbery and selling drugs. However, Sami's case is different from the other inmates because he was for planning to carry out a suicide bombing on Afghan security forces in Kandahar.
When the child prisoners were asked what crimes they had committed, most of them refused to answer and just looked at the reporters.
But Sami, 16, told Xinhua that he is innocent. He said he was misled by the Taliban, adding that he did not understand what suicide attack means.
Sami was lucky because he was not able to detonate the explosive handed to him by the Taliban. Before he could press the button of the device, he was arrested by security forces.
Sami was originally from neighboring Uruzgan province but his family decided to move to Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province for security reasons. "When I was arrested I was just 14 years old, it is now 23 months that I have been in prison. I hate the Taliban because they deceived me and I could have blown myself had I pressed the button of the device which at that time I did not know was a bomb," Sami said.
Gul Mohammad, 17, is another would-be suicide bomber who was arrested in July last year in Zharay District of Kandahar City, 450 km south of Kabul.
"When I was 15, my father sent me to a Madrasa (religious school) in Helmand province. But my Madrasa teachers decided to send me to a Pakistani Madrasa so that I could improve my education," Muhammad said.
Muhammad said that while at the Mawlavi Massoum seminary in Quetta city of Pakistan, the mullahs told him that Afghanistan has been occupied by the United States. "They sent me back a suicide jacket to Kandahar and ordered me to carry out a suicide attack. I was supposed to carry out the bombing. Fortunately I was captured by security forces and now I' m still alive," Mohammad said.
The Taliban, who ruled major parts of Afghanistan for more than six years until they were driven out by a U.S.-led military invasion in late 2001, had staged a violent comeback in 2005 and since then has continued in staging deadly ambuscades and suicide attacks against Afghan and NATO-led security forces. Innocent civilians, including children and women, are among the victims of the Taliban's suicide attacks.
Human right groups and government officials have accused the armed Taliban of recruiting children as soldiers and encouraging them to launch suicide attacks against government security forces and foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Sami said that he envied other Afghan children who are free to move around and go to school. He said he does not know if and when he will be able to get back his freedom.
In the war-battered Afghanistan, children are suffering and deprived of their rights mainly because of the war and protracted conflicts.
Up to 231 children had been killed and 529 children were wounded as a result of the fighting suicide attacks by the Taliban in the first half of the current year, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its mid-year report released in Kabul in late July.
More than 4.5 million school-aged children in Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials, cannot go to school due to variety of reasons with security as the top reason.
According to the UNAMA report, 1,319 civilians were killed and 2,533 injured in violent incidents from January 1 to June 30 this year, a 23 percent rise in overall civilian casualties compared with 2012.
The report attributed 74 percent of the civilian deaths to the attacks by Taliban insurgents and other armed groups opposing the Afghan government.
Recruiting children as soldiers by warlords and their rival factions was common during the factional fighting in Afghanistan in the 1990s until 2001. Using innocent children as suicide bombers was unbelievable in the war-torn country. Unfortunately, it is now happening.