An Afghan body aims to draw the poison out of the young minds of would-be suicide bombers by teaching them the Koran.
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (REUTERS) - In a room full of would-be suicide bombers at a high security detention centre in the Afghan capital, an elderly cleric softly reads out verses from the Koran, telling them the act of killing oneself is itself a crime in Islam.
While pointing to pages in the holy book, he tells the men they won't go to paradise by blowing themselves up. Killing yourself and killing others is forbidden in Islam, he says.
Some of the men nod, others stare vacantly.
Suicide attacks, unknown in Afghanistan until 2004, have become particularly worrying to the country as newly minted government forces take control of security ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign combat troops in 2014.
Abdul Wahab, 18, originally from Kunduz in the north, but who grew up in Pakistan's garrison town of Rawalpindi, said he was approached and asked to risk his life.
"I was approached by a member of the Taliban who asked me to carry out a suicide attack. He knew me from before and encouraged me by saying: 'Your parents are very old, you are not able to marry because you are disabled, you can not to take care of yourself and a wife, it is good for you to carry out a suicide attack.' I asked him, 'Why are you not doing this?' He said, 'Because I have responsibility to make ready all Muslims for this mission, that is why I don't do this myself,'" the young man said, standing in a prison yard alongside fellow inmates and officials.
He said he made four unsuccessful attempts to detonate his explosive-laden car on foreign military convoys in northern Afghanistan before he was caught last month.
He was given 15 days of training at a camp for Afghan refugees near the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on how to set off a car bomb.
Afghanistan's National Directorate Security (NDS) says it is trying to draw the poison out of the young minds by teaching them the Koran, taking them to mosques in Kabul to show people praying peacefully and proving their instigators were wrong.
"Most Muslim families send their children for Islamic education to Pakistani madrassas and Taliban, especially al Qaeda related Taliban, they chose and select some dumb students, lazy students and students from poor background of family to be recruited as suicide attackers. They isolate them from the rest of the students, they train them and in most cases they hypnotize them. They work with them psychologically and they give them a wrong picture of Afghanistan," said Lutfullah Mashal, chief spokesman of the NDS, which gave Reuters rare access to the prisoners under supervision.
Suicide bombers account for the highest number of deaths of civilians and military forces after roadside bombings in Afghanistan.
Last week, at least 20 Afghan civilians were killed when a pair of suicide bombers detonated explosives within minutes of each other in a crowded part of the southern city of Kandahar.
On Saturday (June 9), four French soldiers were killed when a burqa-clad bomber detonated his explosives in a bazaar in the east.
Zahedullah, 17, from eastern Kunar province said he fell in with Taliban fighters at a mosque.
"I was being injected something when I was recruited, so now I realize that they were poising my food and water, because whatever they were telling me I was ready to accept and do it," Zahedullah said.
Some of the boys recruited to carry out bombings are told no harm will come to them.
"They were telling us that Americans came to Afghanistan and girls are wearing jeans and are not covering their faces, so that was their way of encouraging us to carry out suicide attacks," said Mahodul Haq, a would-be bomber arrested in the eastern Jalalabad city.
NDS has long been reviled for abuse and torture of detainees, allegations prison officials have denied.
An Afghan human rights group said while small concerns still remain about the treatment of inmates, progress had been made.
"We still have some rare cases of torture and we try to work with the NDS in order to abolish torture cases. We promise that we will train their staff on human rights and I think that these are the steps that we have to take, and also we ask them if anybody commit torture they should be kept accountable and brought to justice," said Sima Samar head of Afghan Human Rights Commission.
Afghan officials from the NDS prison said they work with prisoners by showing them films of Taliban atrocities.
They also take them to mosques and set up training classes in order to convince would-be suicide bombers to change their outlook on government and international forces.
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