Taliban fighters are forcing children to lay improvised explosive devices (IEDs) because they know British troops will not shoot them. Boys as young as 12 are running the risk of carrying the basic, highly volatile devices, which sometimes explode before they can be put in place. Army commanders say the children’s parents and families are likely to have been threatened by the Taliban into letting their children carry out the work. “In the past few days alone we have had five cases of children who have been exposed to blasts which have caused severe damage to or loss of hands and fingers,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jedge Lewin. The surgeon, 41, posted with 3 Rifles Battle Group told The Mail on Sunday: “Children can pick up small explosive devices when they are playing or handle detonators when forced to plant IEDs. This is a cowardly Taliban tactic and when children are suffering the consequences, it’s particularly sickening.” The 3 Rifles Battle Group have been fighting the Taliban in Sangin, Helmand Province, for the past four months.
Soldiers say they have seen insurgents sending out boys to lay IEDs, sometimes only 150 yards from British positions. One said: “The Taliban know that if they get caught in the sights of our snipers, they don’t last long, so they have resorted to hiding behind compound walls and directing children to plant bombs for them “Lots of home-made IEDs detonate before they have even been laid, but the Taliban don’t seem to care whether a child gets killed or maimed. Some boys are as young as 12.” It comes as thousands of British, US and Afghan troops mount the biggest push in the campaign to wipe out the last Taliban strongholds in Helmand Province. More than 9,500 British troops have been joined by 30,000 US marines and a large force of Afghan National Army soldiers in the biggest offensive since the conflict began in 2001. Operation
Moshtarak, which means ‘work together’, aims to force insurgents out of all populated areas by the end of the year. Colonel Richard Kemp, former head of British forces in Afghanistan, said: “the Taliban have long used civilians, men and women, to draw enemy fire from their positions and the recent use of young children is a sad extension of this. It shows that they’re increasingly desperate. Tactics like this cannot be used indefinitely.”
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children