Taliban Train Suicide Bombers to Attack

The Associated Press
Thursday, November 23, 2006; 3:33 AM

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- The recruits arrive in the remote camps eager for revenge or redemption. They leave ready to sacrifice their lives to inflict chaos and death on Western troops and the Afghan government they support.

In interviews at secret locations along the Afghan-Pakistan border, two veteran Taliban officials told the Associated Press how recruits are trained to conduct the suicide bombings that have loosened the Kabul government's grip on southeast Afghanistan. Since the beginning of this year, 97 suicide attacks have killed 217 people in Afghanistan, according to an Associated Press tally.

At up to 50 sites across the region, young Afghans and Pakistanis, joined by a handful of Arabs or other foreign fighters, spend six weeks in training for their grisly missions, said Mullah Ehsanullah, a Taliban official who recruits suicide bombers.

Many seek to avenge the death or detention of a relative, while others are filled with shame because of treatment during detention at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul by coalition forces.

Some religious volunteers believe their deaths will guarantee that they and 70 members of their families go to heaven. Others, arriving from abroad, see themselves as soldiers in a global struggle against the U.S. and its allies.

"You can say there are three kinds of suicide attackers __ those who were arrested by Americans; those whose houses were destroyed or family members were killed and those who are ideologically motivated," Ehsanullah said.

Mullah Naeem-ur-Rahman Hashimi, who served for three years as translator for al Qaida's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, said young Muslims who have been arrested and held by coalition forces tell of being frightened by dogs, abhorrent to orthodox Muslims, stripped and left naked in public.

"And once he is released his life is finished and his dignity is finished and he knows that if he does a suicide bombing then he will be in heaven," Hashimi said.

The camps, he said, are located in the loosely governed tribal areas of Pakistan, or the rugged mountains of southeast Afghanistan. Most of the volunteers are Afghans, with the second-largest number of recruits coming from Pakistan.

The first phase of the training is religious indoctrination, which is often conducted by Arab militants, Hashimi said. As part of their preparations, volunteers are taught to overcome religious and cultural objections to committing suicide.

Recruits are also taught other, more conventional fighting skills, such as how to shoot pistols and fire rocket-propelled grenades from motorcycles, Hashimi said. But for the would-be martyrs, the focus is on how to build a bomb.

In the final phase of training, each recruit is schooled on how to build a bomb, and how to rig it to a vehicle, or a bicycle or his body. Finally, recruits are taught choose targets for their bombs, as well as when to wait and when to strike.

The number of recruits being trained as suicide bombers is increasing, Hashimi said, and some are young Muslims from abroad eager to fight U.S. forces, either in Afghanistan or Iraq.

© 2006 The Associated Press