‘Taliban forcing children to plant deadly landmines in Jawzjan’

SHEBERGHAN (SW) – Children remain exposed to the brutal conflict in Afghanistan in many ways, which also include their forced recruitment among the ranks of the insurgents.

Jawzjan is one of the northern provinces of Afghanistan where many children have been compelled by the insurgents to place landmines to target security forces. For this this deadly and forced labor, these children are paid 50 afghanis, many such victims of the raging conflict told Salam Watandar.

Different insurgent groups, especially the Taliban, are using landmines to assassinate individuals and destroy roads, public facilities and security checkpoints.

In Faizabad, Salam Watandar reporter met Shir Mohammad (a pseudonym), who is only 14 years old. The Taliban have repeatedly used him and his friends to plant roadside bombs.

Shir Mohammad said he received 50 afghanis for each time a mine was planted, and additional one thousand afghanis were awarded to him if the mine caused heavy casualties. The child said he would get beating and torture if he did not obey the Taliban.

According to Shir Mohammad, children like him were forced to place landmines on the Sheberghan – Mazar-e-Sharif highway. According to him, children are also used to gather information.

After talking to Shir Mohammad, Salam Watandar reporter had a conversation with one of the local police commanders. Confirming the Taliban’s use of children, Khan Mohammad, one such security officer, said a number of children were being trained in the areas of mining, intelligence gathering, identifying strategic positions and identifying security forces by the Taliban.

The Taliban’s use of children is not limited to Faizabad district. Same is the situation in Aqcha and Qushatpa districts of Jawzjan. The families of these children are also worried, but they are not willing to talk about it for fear of their lives.

Jawzjan police chief, Abdul Wahed Wajdan said the children were brainwashed and then used to plant mines and gather information. Jawzjan Governor Lutfollah Azizi said the use of children is one of the Taliban’s longstanding tactics.

The Taliban, however, deny the presence and activities of children among their ranks. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, denies training and recruiting children to gather information and plant landmines.