What goes into the making of a suicide bomber

Published: July 20, 2010
Video capture of a young suicide bomber whose video tape was recovered by authorities.

Video capture of a young suicide bomber whose video tape was recovered by authorities.

PESHAWAR: “There were six suicide bombers that attacked us in the middle of the night,” says Colonel Nadeem, Commandant Dir Operation. “Five of them detonated the explosives strapped to their bodies; however, one was missing till we discovered him hiding in the bushes. He was scared of killing himself because the effect of the drug had ended.”

Nadeem was referring to an attack in Lower Dir earlier this month.

The arrested bomber, between 17 and 19 years of age, was shot dead after he hurled a grenade, killing a security officer. But he did not pull the cord of his suicide jacket.

“Children who are trained as suicide bombers are injected with drugs to create an elated sense of the self. Once the effect of the drug wears off, the bomber is incapable of detonating himself,” says Nadeem.

The general perception of a suicide bomber is someone indoctrinated with religious fervour. However, authorities have always claimed that much more than simple indoctrination is required to carry out suicide attacks.

Medical tests and research seems to be justifying this understanding. High-level sources say the drug given to suicide bombers is called Pervitin, which is a chemical derivative of methamphetamine, a psychoactive stimulant.

Methamphetamine, which is commonly known as meth, is available in Pakistan in the form of medicine by the name of Ritalin, says Dr Mukhtar Azeemi, senior psychiatrist at the Lady Reading Hospital.

Its availability is scarce because of potential misuse, he adds. The drug is usually used for treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Non-prescriptive use of the drug can cause paranoid psychosis, a term used to describe “loss of contact with reality” which helps users achieve their target without giving anything else a thought.

Pervitin was also used in Nazi-Germany. German paratroopers caught behind British lines were described as ‘fearless and berserk’, marching further than was considered humanly possible. Also Japanese kamikaze pilots were documented to be high on meth.

Pakistani officials believe that the drug is injected into the bombers, making the effect more lethal, yet also fast receding.

Nevertheless, poverty, oppression and illiteracy are factors that cannot be ruled out as leading many young people towards militancy.

The story of one would-be suicide bomber illustrates this point. Currently in Sabaon, an institution for the rehabilitation of those trained as suicide bombers, his story reflects how innocent children are turned into killing machines.

The bomber, whose name is kept confidential, was apprehended by security forces during a search operation. During interrogation he yelled “beat me more, as they tortured me before,” says a security official. “Upon hearing this, we took him out of solitary confinement and kept him with ourselves as he narrated his story. His father was a drug addict who hit him every day. At the age of 11 he was given some money by his mother to run away because she was afraid he would be killed by his father. He then found his way to a madrassa where the caretaker and his colleagues used to torture him. Escaping the torment, he ran away to Afghanistan where he joined the Taliban. They trained him in carrying out suicide attacks and sent him back to Pakistan where he was arrested.”

There have been 248 suicide attacks in Pakistan between 2002 and 2010. More than 3,000 civilians and 2,500 military personnel have lost their lives in these attacks. Yet, not much research has been conducted into the phenomenon called suicide bombing.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Jul 20, 2010 - 3:02AM

    bottom line is we need a combined effort in deradicalisation – which i am afraid cannot happen as too many parties seem to be making money out of the situation pakistan is inRecommend

  • Yusaf Khan
    Jul 20, 2010 - 5:32AM

    Absolutely fantastic story. The reality of the situation warrants that Pakistanis pay their taxes and the politicians use these tax revenues, efficiently, to spend on providing health and education to that part of our society that is at high risk of exposure to such extremism. Recommend

  • Haris Chaudhry
    Jul 20, 2010 - 7:24AM

    What goes in the making of a suicide bomber..?
    3 decades of pandering to ultra religious orthodoxy, creating military outfits to gain strategic depth, using all means available to highlight religious supermacy and ethnocenterism, turning blind eye to madrassas and semi-literate clergy poisoning vulnerable youth, all efforts geared towards preservation of power by military and politicians than addressing the snake of extremism and intolerance.. That is what has created suicide bombers… Methamphetamines and Ratolin etal just provide a self-delusional mindset necessary to pull the pin..at the last moment. The making of suicide bombers has been in the offing for a while…Recommend

  • Tabraiz Mansoor
    Jul 20, 2010 - 9:28AM

    no wonder there’s a foriegn hand in these attacks! using medicine… no tribe man could ever know this!Recommend

  • usman
    Jul 20, 2010 - 10:15AM

    It’s dismal aspect of our religion , Who is to blame some times mind stuffing question rise up ,, serious comments please, Who is to blame for these actsRecommend

  • Ali Xaidi
    Jul 20, 2010 - 10:40AM

    He then found his way to a madrassa where the caretaker and his colleagues used to torture him. Escaping the torment, he ran away to Afghanistan where he joined the Taliban. They trained him in carrying out suicide attacks and sent him back to Pakistan where he was arrested.”

    So are they Indians or American ??? or Non-Muslims. Pro-Taliban organization SSP saving Taliban and Mr. Ludhyanvi claimed in TV Program named JIRGA “I don’t believe Taliban’s doing this”. Liars

    Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 didn’t allowed any Banned Organization head on TV or their supporters on Media but he’s everyday on TV.Recommend

  • Jul 20, 2010 - 10:59AM

    We write about such children, hear about them on the news, discuss their plight in the comfort of our drawing rooms and then loath them for ending their lives along with the lives of so many others when they finally blow themselves up..but do we really care about them?!! I’m not sure how well the rehabilitation facilities are doing and we’re yet to really be bothered enough to see if the miseries of these children actually end in those facilities; we’re happy with reading sensational stories about the making of suicide bombers, i wish we started paying attention to those who have been ‘saved’ and find out if truly rehabilitated is what they will eventually become.Recommend

  • Masood Hassan Raja
    Jul 20, 2010 - 11:04AM

    we need to eliminate those anti Pakistan criminal who finance plan and facilitate and make these bombers to kill innocent people.we need to re-eduacate these children so that criminal elements can not use them for their masters who are funding them to destabilize Pakistan. There is definately a foreign hand in it.i have no doubt that Indian agents in Afghanistan are behind this dirty work to punish Pakistan for its support for Kashmir cause. Recommend

  • Jul 20, 2010 - 11:51AM

    very impressive report. I think we must stop blame game because it shows our impotency. we have to bring justice in society. If we love our children then we must start love children of others.
    what makes a suicide bomber?

    yes poverty and social injustice. Madrassas and radicals come latter to exploit the situation.
    Some one asked Hazrat Ali(RATA) what is Zulm(injustice). He said Zulm(injustice) is when things are not in their designated places. he said ” any state can survive on Kufer but no state can survive if there is zulm.

    I ask my self and I invite all of you are we on our right places i.e. are we performing duties which we are suppose to?Recommend

  • Zeeshan Idrees
    Jul 20, 2010 - 12:45PM

    Although I’m not a fan of Benazir Bhutto, this reminds of a comment she made about terrorism and the involvement of madrassas. The failure of the government in providing education to all citizens (partly due to the mis-allocation of our national budget) leads to a situation where other places of “education” i.e. madrassas, take responsibility of “literating the masses”. The fact that a madrassa exists and provides free “education” to young people is an sign that the government didn’t.

    Short term efforts like mobile-phone tappings, security cameras within cities, additional security, etc are reactive solutions. In the long run, we need madrassa-reform, more allocation of resources to free education, and employment-promoting government schemes.Recommend

  • Nasir
    Jul 20, 2010 - 1:22PM

    I think there is an urgent need of revolutionary steps in the education system by the government. At least they shall make it mandatory for parents to enroll their children in schools and this law shall be enforced at any cost. Legal actions shall be taken against parents who are not enrolling their children in schools. Schools at every level shall keep record of their students and inform the concerned officials about any missing child or those who are not showing up in school.

    Obviously there is this poverty issue which makes parents send their kids to madrassas where they get free boarding and food. In some government schools kids are provided free books in primary classes. I think this is not enough. Students shall get free books, stationary and also uniform upto matric level, and education ministries shall make it mandatory for all levels of schools to hold sports and other cultural and fun activities at least after every three months.

    Islamabad Recommend

  • usman
    Jul 20, 2010 - 1:59PM

    1-Suspect they are 100% Taliban
    2-Suspect they are Muslims
    3-They belong to Afganistan

    If suspect 1 – Then are not suicide attackers in Pakistan
    If suspect 2 – That is base for suspect one (Muslims never kill a Muslim)
    If suspect 3 – ?

    Emotional and religious communication skills are very effective belove 14 years of age. Recommend

  • Ali
    Jul 20, 2010 - 2:17PM

    @Haris: According to a recent study conducted by an American Think Tank, it’s the mainstream education system that creates marginalization and is deemed more dangerous than the madrassahs. And where do our politicians come from?? No brownie points for guessing!!!Recommend

  • Nasir
    Jul 20, 2010 - 2:36PM

    stop making F-17s. Invest in our children’s future…pleaseRecommend

  • Atiq Rehman
    Jul 20, 2010 - 5:43PM

    People blame generals and/or politicians. Each of them has their share, but I also place alot of blame on the bureaucrats, from section officers to secretaries. Ineffecient, corrupt and complacent servants, not of the public, but of their political and millitary masters, whichever the times demand.

    We read the names of corrupt politicians and hear the stories of corrupt generals, but no one ever knows the names of the section officers, assistant commissioners etc that have run the nation uninterrupted.

    May all corrupt and disloyal people be blown up by one suicide bomber each. Hopefully, that way, we’ll get rid of both cancers at the same timeRecommend

  • Dr Ghayur Ayub
    Jul 20, 2010 - 7:58PM

    Recently, I have published an article on the subject, titled ‘Making of suidide bombers’. It can be found by Googling my name and this along with other articles would be shown.Recommend

  • Palvasha von Hassell
    Jul 21, 2010 - 5:09PM

    Great report. True, all ills can be purged from any society, but getting started on a few reforms, such as tax and education, will take us a long way. It’s all a matter of will. Bush’s insane policies in the region are certainly also to blame for the violence, but they have exacerbated the defects that have already existed for decades in Pakistan. Good political leadership is called for, which will balance the country’s interests with foreign demands of “friends” that cannot be ignored just now. Among the priorities should be enforcement of taxation,(only less than 2% of Pakistanis pay tax)and education that broadens mind and encourages critical thinking. For, even if most of the blame could be laid at the door of drugs in the case of suicide bombers, one thing is certain: poverty and lack of or the wrong education produce the people who get drugged.Recommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Jul 21, 2010 - 10:57PM

    Some parents do not keep an eye on the activities of their children i.e. where they are going, with whom they are meeting, what sort of friends they have, what is the background of their children’s friend’s etc.

    In most of the cases when children go out of control, they are lured by Mullahs on one pretext or the other.

    While going to a Maderssah’s, the parent should know that what type of Molvee (the tutor) is and what type of lesson is given to the children?

    In some cases when children go to sit in the Aitikaf during the holy month of Ramadan, children make some Mullah friends and from there children are lured to go to Ijtima in Raiwind. That is the place where children meet more Molvees and finally they become suicide bombers.

    It is a difficult task for the parents to stop their children from going to religious affairs but the question arises: what the children are learning? Are they learing how to become a good Muslim, or they are learning how to become a suicide bomber?Recommend

  • Sadia Hussain
    Jul 22, 2010 - 5:58PM

    The denial syndrome is the core reason behind our failures, we fail to identify and ratify our mistakes. The Taliban advocates can babble all they want but they cannot change the reality. We are fighting a war of survival; it is a battle of modernity verses barbarianism. No amount of misinformation can now change the minds of masses that are well aware of the true nature of Taliban.Recommend

  • irfan
    Jul 23, 2010 - 3:59AM

    very informative article,column,story…….it seems that to become a suicide bomber is much more of a social problem than the religious one,,,…wants to say so much but don’t want to……Recommend

    Jul 28, 2010 - 3:31AM

    i think the solution for this suicide bombing, is free education to childern atleast till matriculation. but to implement this, it needs a system to work proper. I think government should limit the population also because an average income family can give better education and food to 2 childern than 5 or more childern and in my opinion, every parent should realise also because this a fact. The current education system in pakistan is totally corrupt and in the hands of irresponsible people. The only one building where i can see justice and good hope for the future of pakistan, is Suprem court.Recommend

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