An Afghan girl, believed to be 10 years old, was persuaded by her brother to carry out a suicide mission and attack the border police. She was caught in Helmand Province with the explosives strapped to her body in a harness. The little girl is said to be known as Spogmai or Spozhmay. Some reports have suggested she may be as young as 8.
Apparently, a collective of her male relatives had accused the Afghan girl child of “illicit relations” with police officers. One of the older brothers strapped his sister into the heavy harness that would bring about her certain death, and those of others, and sent her on a river boat to her target destination.
She was accompanied by another brother suspected of being a Taliban commander named Zahir. It was bitterly cold on the boat crossing and Spogmai began to cry. Perhaps her tears triggered his conscience, but Zahir fled when the pair reached the other side. Reports then vary, but according to the Pahjwok news agency, she was still encased in the vest when she turned herself in to police. Other reports indicate that Zahir undid the vest and took it with him.
The BBC was told that Spogmai was in the process of trying to carry out the bomb attack when she was detained and held overnight on Sunday. This information was received from an interior ministry spokesman, Sediq Sediqi. He said that an Afghan soldier had noticed that the girl was wearing the bulky suicide vest and this led to her capture.
Bilal Sarwary, reporting for the BBC in Afghanistan, said she was either unable to push the button which detonated the device or she was arrested before she had a chance to try.
The attack had been scheduled to happen in the Khan Neshin district of Helmand Province. Colonel Hamidullah Siddique of the local police, oversaw the child when she was taken into custody there. He said that Spogmai had begged them not to send her back home. He also confirmed they had yet to catch Zahir. Spogmai had told them of her harassment at the hands of her family, and the accusations that she had acted improperly with policemen. She was in a state of terrible shock and confusion. She has since been transferred to Lashkar Gah. There has been no word on what will happen to her next.
The Taliban has regularly been accused of brainwashing young boys to carry out suicide bombings and to plant roadside bombs, but it is extremely rare to use young girls in this way. Sohana Jawed, a Pakistani girl, was nine years old when she was kidnapped and drugged by militants on her way to school in 2011. She was then forced to put on a suicide vest weighed down with over 20 pounds of explosive and sent to a miltary checkpoint. Luckily, she seized her chance and exposed the vest as she approached the soldiers; thus saving all their lives.
Children are said to be shipped in from the tribal regions of Pakistan to suicide training camps, where they begin their preparations. They are given verses from the Koran and told these have the power to protect them in the blast. These allegations have been strenuously denied by the Taliban who insist all their fighters are both volunteer and adult. Spogmai was certainly neither of those. An Afghan girl child of somewhere between 8 and 10, and coerced by her brothers, she had no choice but to attempt to go through with it. Thankfully, she is still alive.
Suicide bombing as a tactic in Afghan warfare has only really been in practice since 2001. All throughout the long war against the Soviets in the 1980s and the long civil war that followed, no faction of Afghan fighter used a suicide attack against their enemy. It was deemed to be not just cowardly but a un-Islamic procedure. This changed after the Iraq war when the Arab jihadists showed the use of it and taught the Afghans.
Many feel that sending out a little 10 year old Afghan girl strapped to a suicide vest is a sickening sign of the intention to continue to employ the technique.
By Kate Henderson