South Asia

Pakistani boy who dreamed of being a suicide bomber

Abdus Salam, whose face has been blurred for his own safety.
Image caption Abdus Salam was brainwashed into believing he would be rewarded for carrying out a suicide attack

Islamist militants told Abdus Salam he would go to heaven if he blew himself up. Initially he believed them, and trained to become a suicide bomber. Now 14, he tells the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan how he narrowly escaped a violent death.

"Zahir, Sher Rahman and Zainullah are all older than me. They are all Taliban. Zahir and Rauf are actually from Afghanistan and have fought there.

I have five brothers. My eldest brother works with my father. They run a construction-machinery rental business.

My family has been living in Sohrab Goth, in Karachi, for the last 30 years.

I used to hang out at a local shop run by Zahir. We used to talk about jihad, fidayeen attacks [suicide bombings] and such things.

I have known Zahir for the past three years. One day, he took me aside and told me that he was going away to be a fidayee [suicide bomber].

When I asked him why was he doing this, he replied: 'I really want to be a fidayee, at least I will get heaven.'

I asked: 'How is that?'

He said: 'If, on the day of judgement, I am asked "What did you do for Allah?" If I say I have done nothing, I will be sent to hell.

'But if I have done something for Allah, if I have carried out a fidayeen attack, then I will be able to say that I had a body and I blew it to pieces as a sacrifice.'

Image caption Karachi's shrine to Sufi Saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi was recently targeted by teenage suicide bombers

I was then introduced to Sher Rahman. I told him I wanted to go to Afghanistan, I said I wanted to carry out fidayeen attacks on the Americans.

He said he wasn't in touch with Afghanistan, but he was in contact with Waziristan.

He started praising the Waziristan Taliban in front of me. I told him I didn't want to go to Waziristan, I wanted to go to Afghanistan to kill Americans.

Sher Rahman told me I wouldn't be able to cross into Afghanistan, because I don't have a beard.

'You should carry out a fidayee attack in Pakistan, in Karachi. Whether you carry out an attack in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, you will receive the same heavenly reward,' he said.

Sher Rahman told me not to mention the conversations we had had to anyone. I said I definitely wouldn't.

He said if I told anyone, he would cut my head off. After he threatened me I was so scared I felt faint.

I told Sher Rahman that I would blow myself up wherever he told me to, that I would become a fidayee there.

He told me that he would try his best for me, and said some people would come and he would introduce me to them.

A few days later, Sher Rahman introduced me to Zainullah. Zainullah asked me whether I was committed to carrying out the act, or if it was all just talk.

I told him: 'Even if you call me in the middle of the night to carry out an attack, I will do it. I am ready to be a fidayee. I want to go to heaven. Few people get heaven, I am lucky to be a fidayee.'

Image caption Dozens have been killed or injured in recent suicide attacks in Pakistan

Zainullah said to me: 'You shouldn't be a suicide bomber - you are too young. You should make jackets for the suicide bombers. You will get heavenly rewards for the people who blow themselves up using your jackets'.

But I told him that I didn't want to do this.

He also said that I could not go to Afghanistan, that they would not let me cross over because I don't have a beard.

Then he left, after warning me not to repeat our conversation.

Zahir returned after fighting in Afghanistan and I became friends with him.

He would tell me such incredible stories about jihad. He would say: 'When you put on a fidayee jacket and walk to your target, you will see the gates of heaven open up for you.

'You will enter into heaven and feel nothing, while the people will blow up in the background.'

I told him this was very good - that I would enter heaven and would stay there for ever.

Later, Sher Rahman and Zainullah were both arrested.

They never told me where I was to carry out the attack, but they recently told me to be ready for it on any day.

If you met them you wouldn't be able to tell what they were really like - they appear to be normal, straightforward people.

During this period, every waking moment, all I thought about was being a fidayee.

I thought I would carry out a fidayeen attack and go to heaven.

When my teacher used to come for lessons, and while I was working, all I could think about was being a fidayee.

Twenty-four hours a day I would think: 'Heaven, fidayee, fidayee, heaven.'

My father is diabetic and his health has got worse since he learnt about this. Now he can't sleep at night.

But now Allah has given me a new life. I want to concentrate on my studies and I want to work hard and join the Pakistan army."

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