Pardon for child ‘suicide bomber’

Story Highlights

>Afghan President Karzai pardons 14-year-old would-be suicide bomber
>Boy was caught wearing a suicide vest intended to blow up a provincial governor
>
Boy had been sent by father to a madrassa to learn the Koran


KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) — A 14-year-old would-be suicide bomber from Pakistan, caught while on a mission to blow up an Afghan provincial governor, was pardoned on Sunday by President Hamid Karzai.

Taliban insurgents and their al Qaeda allies have launched a wave of suicide attacks against Afghan, NATO and U.S.-led forces in the last two years, seeking to show the government and its Western allies are incapable of providing security.
Most of the victims are Afghan civilians.

The first whiskers of a moustache on his top lip, Rafiqullah stood to one side of the Afghan president, his father, with a full beard, stood to the other, at a ceremony in the capital on Sunday.

Rafiqullah’s father, a poor tradesman from South Waziristan in Pakistan, had sent his son to a religious school, or madrassa, to learn the Koran. Later, when he asked where his son was, the teachers there brushed him off, he said.

Then last month, the 14-year-old was caught wearing a suicide vest on a motorbike in the eastern Afghan city of Khost.

“Today we are facing a hard fact, that is a Muslim child was sent to madrassa to learn Islamic subjects, but the enemies of Afghanistan misled him towards suicide and prepared him to die and kill,” Karzai told reporters, his arm on the boy’s shoulder.

The boy and father bowed their heads as Karzai spoke.

“His family thought their child was learning Islamic studies. That is not his fault, nor his father’s, the enemies of Islam wanted him to destroy his life and those of other Muslims. I pardon him and wish him a good life,” the president said.

“You are now free and forgiven by the people of Afghanistan,” he said turning to the boy and smiling.

Walking to the gates of the presidential palace with his father, Rafiqullah said: “I am very happy that I am pardoned and released.”

Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban and al Qaeda militants and trying to destabilize its neighbor, a charge the Islamabad government denies.

Kabul officials say many of the suicide bombers and Taliban fighters are recruited from impressionable youths in Pakistan’s madrassas and sent across the border to kill.

Asked if he had a message for Pakistan, Karzai said: “I have a message, it is a message of peace, forgiveness, a message pleading for better relationships, not cheating the children and encouraging them into terrorism and suicide.”
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