Taliban denies children serve ‘in jihadi ranks’

Taliban Muaskar ul Fida suicide squad assault team Haqqani Network

A young boy armed with an assault rifle and dressed in military fatigues stands next to Maulawi Ehsan Abu Hamza, who addresses a Taliban suicide assault team known as the Muaskar ul Fida.

The Afghan Taliban has released a statement claiming that reports of children serving in its frontline units or its suicide brigade are “fabricated.” The Taliban issued the denial despite the fact that the group’s own propaganda has advertised armed children in its ranks.

The statement, entitled “Remarks by spokesman of Islamic Emirate concerning use of children in the Jihadi ranks of Islamic Emirate,” was published today on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official propaganda website. The Taliban said that “enemy circles” have pushed reports of the jihadists using children as suicide bombers and fighters.

The Taliban is likely responding to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior (MoI), which recently claimed that the Taliban in Faryab province purchased a 12 year old boy from his family for an estimated $10,500 and then trained him, as well as six other children, to conduct suicide attacks against Afghan officials. According to the MoI, the boy escaped from a camp run by a Taliban commander known as Mullah Qayum in Badghis province’s Ghormach district.

After the MoI issued its statement, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) decried the Taliban’s use of children in its ranks.

“Based on Geneva Conventions, those fighting against governments should also abide by the international laws of war. The laws are against use of children as fighters,” AIHRC spokesman Rafiullah Bedar said, according to the Afghanistan Times. Bedar also said that employing children in war is against the teachings of Islam.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid fired back, claiming its “code of conduct book” does not permit children to fight or conduct suicide (“martyrdom”) operations.

“Employing children in Jihadi ranks is forbidden by Shariah,” or Islamic law, the statement attributed to Mujahid said. “The military code of conduct book of the Islamic Emirate also prohibits the use of children and most importantly children do not have the capability of achieving military objectives.”

Mujahid also said that “hundreds” of adults are prepared to conduct suicide attacks in Afghanistan.

“We have hundreds of pre-trained adult martyrdom seekers patiently waiting for years for their respected turns so why would there ever be a thought or a need to train children and then use them in operations in their childhood?,” he argued.

Mujahid’s reference to the Taliban’s trained “adult” suicide units is ironic, as a video released by the Taliban on Nov. 1 shows a young child who appears ready for war. In that video, a Taliban suicide assault team known as the Muaskar ul Fida is shown pledging allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who is Mullah Omar’s successor. Two Taliban commanders who address the group, known as Maulawi Ehsan Abu Hamza and Abu Haris Haqqani, are flanked by a young boy dressed in military fatigues and armed with an assault rifle. [See LWJ report, Taliban suicide assault squad pledges allegiance to emir Mullah Mansour.]

The Taliban dismisses reports of children who have escaped its suicide camps, or turned themselves in before launching their attacks, as “propaganda” that is “employed in an attempt to disrepute the name of Jihad.” But the organization’s use of children as suicide bombers has been well-documented by the Western media.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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