Mon, Jun 20, 2016 - Page 9 News List

Taliban targeting Afghan police with child sex slaves

The sexual abuse of young boys by senior police commanders, politicians and warlords has made it easy for the Taliban to use pretty youngsters in Trojan Horse attacks that have killed hundreds of policemen in the past two years

By Anuj Chopra  /  AFP, TARIN KOT, Afghanistan

Illustration: Yusha

The Taliban is using child sex slaves to mount crippling insider attacks on police in southern Afghanistan, exploiting the pervasive practice of bacha bazi — pedophilic boy play — to infiltrate security ranks, multiple officials and survivors of such assaults said.

The ancient custom is prevalent across Afghanistan, but nowhere does it seem as entrenched as in the province of Uruzgan, where bacha bereesh — or boys without beards — widely become objects of lustful attraction for powerful police commanders.

The Taliban over about two years has used them to mount a wave of Trojan Horse attacks — at least six between January and April alone — that have killed hundreds of policemen, according to security and judicial officials in the province.

“The Taliban are sending boys — beautiful boys, handsome boys — to penetrate checkpoints and kill, drug and poison policemen,” said Ghulam Sakhi Rogh Lewanai, who was Uruzgan’s police chief until he was removed in a security reshuffle in April amid worsening violence.

“They have figured out the biggest weakness of police forces — bacha bazi,” he said.

The assaults, signifying abuse of children by both parties in the conflict, have left authorities rattled, with one senior provincial official who echoed Rogh Lewanai’s view, saying “it’s easier tackling suicide bombers than bacha attackers.”

The killings illustrate how bacha bazi is aggravating insecurity in Uruzgan, a remote province which officials warn is teetering on the brink of collapse, unraveling hard-won gains by US, Australian and Dutch troops who fought there for years.

“These bacha attacks have fueled deep mistrust within police ranks,” said Seddiqullah, a police commander at a checkpoint near the provincial capital Tarin Kot.

The insurgents are using boys as honey traps, said 21-year-old Matiullah, a policeman who was the only survivor from an insider attack in Dehrawud district in spring last year.

He said the attacker was the checkpoint commander’s own sex slave, a teenager called Zabihullah. Late one night, he went on a shooting spree, killing seven policemen, including the commander, as they slept.

“He brought the Taliban inside and poked all the bodies with rifle butts to see if anyone was alive. I pretended to be dead,” said Matiullah, who now works as a tailor, pointing out a gash on his forehead.

“As his Taliban accomplices gathered our weapons and ammunition, Zabihullah declared: ‘Everyone is dead,’” Matiullah said.

The Taliban, which banned bacha bazi during its 1996 to 2001 rule, roundly denied deploying any underage boys for insider attacks.

“We have a special mujahidin brigade for such operations — all grown men with beards,” a Taliban spokesman said.

The insurgents have long denied using children in combat, a claim repeatedly debunked by rights groups and the Afghan government.

Survivors of insider attacks, including Matiullah, suggest the Taliban is exploiting the institutionalization of bacha bazi in police ranks for military gain.

Practically all of Uruzgan’s 370 local and national police checkpoints have bachas — some up to four — who are illegally recruited not just for sexual companionship but also to bear arms, multiple officials said.

Some policemen, they said, demand bachas like a perk of the job, refusing to join outposts where they are not available.

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