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Afghan girl says she was sent on a suicide mission

By Masoud Popalzai and Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 3:21 PM EST, Tue January 7, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A 10-year-old says she was pressured into a suicide bomb plot
  • She did not go through with it and surrendered to police
  • Afghan and foreign forces have arrested many would-be suicide bomber children
  • The country's President condemns the Taliban

(CNN) -- A 10-year-old Afghan girl alleges that she was pressured to carry out a would-be suicide bombing on a border police station in the southern Helmand province, officials said.

There were conflicting reports about how the plot was foiled, but the fact that a young girl was caught up in the middle of it was shocking enough for President Hamid Karzai to quickly condemn the alleged attackers.

"Children are the future-makers of the country. They should be taken care of, and education opportunities should be provided for them," he said in a statement. "They shouldn't be used as a tool for suicide attacks."

Afghan and foreign forces have arrested many would-be suicide bomber children.

Last year, Afghan police intercepted 41 children whom insurgents were planning to use as suicide bombers. They were between 6 and 11 years old.

According to Karzai, the girl, known only as Spozhmai, was forced to attempt the suicide attack and is now under the government's protection.

The girl's brother, Zahir, is known locally as Hameed Sahib and is a local Taliban commander, the country's Interior Ministry said.

The girl spoke with police and reporters, giving slightly different versions of what the alleged attack plans entailed.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry provided what he said was the definitive version, based on the investigation.

Spozhmai's brother and a friend forced her to attempt a suicide attack on the police station, spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

They took her to a river near the police station and gave her a suicide vest and second pair of clothes to change into once she crossed, Sediqqi said.

Her instructions were to cross the river, spend the night in an abandoned house and approach the police station in the morning as the officers prepared for their daily patrols, the Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Upon entering the water, however, Spozhmai felt cold and started screaming, Sediqqi said.

Police officers heard the screams and ran to the river, he said. At the sight of the police, the brother took the suicide vest and fled, he said.

The officers took the girl to their station, where she opened up with her story, Sediqqi said.

When taken into custody, the girl was not wearing explosives, Umar Zwak, the spokesman for the governor of Helmand province, said after reviewing the initial investigation report.

Karzai said he ordered the Interior Ministry to eventually give Spozhmai back to her parents after getting assurances from them that the girl will be able to continue her family life like other children.

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