September 20, 2013 | Quote

Young Militants Ready to Die, Eager to Kill

Abdul Wali Fadaei is proud of his family history. His father died when he drove an explosives-laden car into the capital's upscale Hotel Inter-Continental in 2011, a brazen attack that killed 18 people, including seven militants.

His brothers — he won't say how many or their ages — are studying to become suicide bombers.

Fadaei, 17, was arrested last year before he was able to detonate the explosives he'd transported in a Toyota from Kandahar to Kabul in order to kill Americans.

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan has documented 23 cases of boys recruited by the Taliban and other extremist groups in the first half of 2013 compared with 66 for all of 2012. Experts say the actual figure is probably far higher. Most of the youngsters were employed as suicide bombers or to plant roadside bombs. There were 189 militant youths in Afghan juvenile rehabilitation centers in 2012, the government said.

Children offer several advantages for militant groups, said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a Washington-based attorney and radicalism expert. Youngsters, he said, are impressionable, don't have dependents and tend to wholeheartedly embrace causes.

Along the fence outside the juvenile detention center, dozens of boys whooped and screeched as a visitor passed. A few simulated the donning of a suicide vest and pressing of a detonation trigger. Then they gave thumbs-up signs.

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