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‘Nothing in it for me,’ says reformed Afghan suicide bomber

Kabul – A year ago, Hameed was an aspiring suicide bomber, wired up to an explosives-packed vest and convinced that his sole purpose in life was to kill a senior Afghan police officer.

But for the last six months, he has been a dedicated police officer and now barely recognises the young jihadi he once was, who believed that mass murder was the fast track to eternal salvation.

“I didn’t get anything”

Hameed said he turned his life around after realising that the only person who would benefit from his mission was an uncle who sold him to religious extremists in Pakistan.

“Now I’m very happy,” the 25-year-old said. “I can earn a living as a policeman. I get a good salary. Even after deciding to become a suicide bomber, I didn’t get anything.

“My uncle took all the money, a million Pakistani rupees (USD 12,000, EUR 9,000). I didn’t get a single rupee,” Hameed, who like many Afghans uses only one name, told AFP.

Mounting attacks on foreign troops
The security situation in Afghanistan and the lawless tribal areas of northwest Pakistan makes Hameed’s story difficult, if not impossible, to verify independently.

But most tellingly, the man Hameed was sent to kill – the police chief of Wardak province, west of the Afghan capital Kabul – says he believes his young recruit.

“I was under pressure from both the Taliban and the (Al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked) Hizb-i-Islami to leave the government post,” said General Abdul Yameen Muzafaruddin.

“But I didn’t care. That’s why this guy was appointed to kill me,” he added.

Hameed’s experience is in line with the methods of militant groups, including the Taliban, as they increase their attacks against the 126,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan and the country’s Western-backed government.

According to Western officials who have contact with all parties in the bloody eight-year conflict, suicide bombers are trained in neighbouring Pakistan, then sent back over the porous border with specific missions.

Trained for suicide
Hameed said his uncle was a mid-level commander in the Taliban’s fighting ranks and he was taken to Peshawar in northwest Pakistan during the winter lull in fighting in late 2008.

“We were taken to a madrassa where 150 Afghan students were living under the supervision of Pakistani teachers,” he said, referring to the religious schools that teach young men rote memorisation of the Koran and often little else.

“It was there soon after I arrived that I was told for the first time that I was going to be trained for a suicide bombing mission. I was assigned to attack the Wardak police chief, General Abdul Yameen Muzafaruddin.”

He and about 15 other Afghans were trained in how to put on suicide vests, how to choose the target and how to stay calm, Hameed explained over tea in Kabul after a three-hour trip by car from his home in volatile Wardak.

The vests are packed with high-explosives and detonated by remote control, timers or by the wearers themselves once they reach their targets, killing the wearer and causing indiscriminate loss of life, particularly among civilians.

A coordinated assault in the Taliban’s spiritual home of Kandahar city in southern Afghanistan in March saw at least five suicide bombers kill 35 people and injure dozens more.

In December last year, a Jordanian double agent, brought to a US base in eastern Khost province on the pretence of sharing information, blew himself up, killing seven CIA officers.

Choosing life

Hameed said he and the other trainee bombers were eventually given their own vests loaded with eight kilograms (20 pounds) of explosives and sent back to Afghanistan, eagerly anticipating their missions.

But, he said: “Eventually it dawned on me that if I blew myself up it would be for nothing. There was no benefit to me or my immediate family. My uncle had all the money.”

So, after weeks of agonising, he contacted another uncle, a commander of a police post who took him to meet the man he had been sent to kill.

Hameed told the police chief to his face of his assassination plan and then surrendered his explosives-packed vest.

“He (Muzafaruddin) invited me to join the police force to work with my uncle,” said Hameed.

Despite the constant danger of insurgent attacks that Afghanistan’s fledgling police force faces, Hameed says he is now happy with his life and the job.

“I think that Afghanistan is a mess and we have to accept that to make it a better place, we must face risks,” he said.

“If we do not accept that there is risk involved in trying to make life in this country better, then we will never reach the point where life is good.”

AFP / Expatica