Pakistani militants turn children into living bombs
Tank, Pakistan - Haneef Mehsud was a normal teenager who spend most of his time hanging out with friends and playing cricket before he was recruited by the Taliban and turned into a suicide bomber. Less than a month after his 17th birthday, Haneef killed two soldiers when he rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into an army convoy in late 2008 on a road not far from his home in Pekai, a hamlet in the militancy-plagued South Waziristan region of northern Pakistan.
"We tried to stop him when he visited the family two weeks before the attack and informed us that he was soon going to embrace shahadat," or martyrdom, Haneef's father, Ghazi Mehsud, recalled.
"I don't know what they [the Taliban] did to my son," Ghazi said as tears rolled down his cheeks and disappeared in his long grey beard. "His mother and sisters were crying, but he stood there like a stone. He only requested us to forgive him in the name of the love we had for him and left."
Ghazi moved to the neighbouring district of Tank in the North-West Frontier Province, which is also the gateway to South Waziristan, to save his second teenage son from the influence of his fellow tribesman and local warlord Baitullah Mehsud, who he blames for Haneef's recruitment and death.
But hundreds more children are still undergoing brainwashing at dozens of "suicide nurseries" run by the ethnic Pashtun militant commander.
Mehsud, in his 30s, has emerged as the most dangerous militant commander in recent years. He heads Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella group for around a dozen Pakistani militant outfits and has close links with al-Qaeda.
The notorious commander is believed to have been behind several dozen suicide bombings across the country, including the one that killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in late 2007
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