When Mohammad Daoud, an Afghan police officer, received a phone call demanding that he give his police truck to anonymous militants, he didn’t take it very seriously. After all, members of Afghan security forces like Daoud who have access to official vehicles are often the targets of these kinds of threats. When the callers said that they had kidnapped Daoud’s son, he dismissed them as irritating pranksters. Little did he know that his son was indeed missing, and that in retaliation, the militants would strangle the young boy.
“I became angry,” Daoud said, recounting the conversation with the militants. “I used bad words and told him, ‘cut off his head.’ I didn’t think that they would kill my son,” he added. “They claim that they are religious people and wage jihad against evildoers.”
This tragedy is, according to the New York Times, part of a widespread pattern. The Taliban is known for murdering children who have even the most tenuous connections to NATO or Afghan security forces. Although the Taliban has denied involvement in this particular killing, it seems part of a larger strategy, both to make money and to send political messages. The lives of children, and the families who lose them, are caught in the crossfire.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai denounced the murder, saying, “This action is not permitted in any culture or any religions.” He said that he had ordered security forces to root out the militants. But violence like this shows that militant groups are still powerful, even in areas of the country that NATO has turned over to Afghan control. And they are willing to do whatever it takes to reassert control in rural Afghanistan, even killing children. It also raises larger questions about how safe the civilian populations will be, as NATO hands over more and more provinces.
Photo from DVIDSHUB via flickr.