When the Pakistan Strategic Forum’s O&S Directorate and our CT Wing first started our investigative efforts in mid-2023 aimed at uncovering the dark secrets of how so many young suicide bombers end up in the hands of the TTP in blatant violation of the human rights of so many, it was clear that such an investigation would involve visits and trips that cover the length and breadth of tribal Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, even taking us at times to the other side of the border in a dangerous search for answers.

It was on one of these trips to the hotspot areas where such children are taken by the TTP that we located and talked to the family of Hamza (name changed for secrecy purposes), in Orakzai Agency in Kohat Division. He was one of the only children we could find that had actually been inside the TTP’s suicide bomber training centers. However at the last moment; Hamza could not blow himself up, chose life and defected to the Pakistani side about a year ago. While talking to the almost-perpetually weeping mother of Hamza, she told our correspondents that Hamza was at the time of his deceptive recruitment by the TTP a young 17-year-old student of a local Madrassah that her father, who was sitting silently beside her, had sent him to so that he may gain education and some religious knowledge as well. Hamza was also sitting silently beside them. He was silent in the beginning but as his parents started telling their side of the story in earnest to our correspondents, he took one of them aside and said that he wished to narrate his own story, but would feel more comfortable if his parents would not be present for the interview. So our correspondents asked for separate interviews from the parents and Hamza, and after taking him to a separate room, he started his personal account of what had taken place with him.

According to Hamza, the TTP runs separate spotting, cultivating and recruiting networks in almost all rural areas of Orakzai. He further explained that the each and every potential suicide bomber goes through these three rings of the TTP before being sent to the training center in Afghanistan, The first ring which comprises of the spotting network includes various facilitators of the TTP that frequent the Madrassahs of the area and spot young students, later picking them out and developing friendships. Hamza said that the final step in this group’s working is to complete the young students’ inclusion into online chat groups and WhatsApp groups.

Our CT Wing experts say that the next step would involve showing these young student specific indicators and media to make them mentally saturated with fundamentalist and extremist content and exploiting their socio-economic and local tendencies of good tribal people to be tricked into fighting for a insincere cause masquerading as the righteous path.

This was corroborated by Hamza who said that the next step involves another group of TTP facilitators that are tasked with cultivating these young minds through sharing of manipulated or doctored content, and brainwashing them through misinterpretations of scripture to motivate them, in reality for them to act as cannon-fodder and human grenades for the evil purposes and games of a militant organization, in the process killing countless innocent Muslims in Pakistan for their own nefarious designs in one of the biggest humanitarian issues facing the region today.

It is only after the selected young Madrassah students have passed this step that they come face to face with their first official connection with the TTP, and that comes in the shape of an actual official ‘recruitment form’. Through multiple interviews, both online and in-person, with Hamza and others, we have been able to recreate what that TTP Suicide Bomber recruitment form looks like:

These forms are filled by the students without the consent or knowledge of their parents.

The next step cements their journey into the terrorist abyss of the TTP, and is seen as the ‘point-of-no-return’ for almost all of the candidates, when the last group of TTP recruiter personnel, this time comprised of their on-ground militants and not just local facilitators, smuggle them illegally across the Pakistan-Afghanistan International Border and hand them over to insurgent commanders in Afghanistan where they are kept in various ‘khudkush bombaar taleemi marakiz’, these camps made in blatant violations of the Geneva Conventions as well as the promises made by the Afghan Taliban to the international community during the Doha Agreement.

While it is somewhat known by regional intelligence communities that these suicide bomber bases and training centers have existed since some time, rarely if not ever has a functional suicide bomber training center been found by private media. At PSF, due to our unique corporation as both a new outlet and a private national security think tank, we have been able to and have gotten close to finding potential locations via satellite imagery intelligence tools, and narrow them down to specific coordinates, accordingly verifying them from testimonies and descriptions given by Hamza in describing the PBIED training camp where he himself was taken by the TTP militants, located at what we now know as in the eastern rural hills of Khost Province in Afghanistan.

According to Hamza, most of the children are kept there in isolation from a period of 6 months to a year. The children are kept there without any consent of their worried parents. Once there, they are not allowed to maintain any sort of contact, both physically and by telephone, with their parents or family. Meanwhile, they undergo rigorous training physical training and brainwashing to get them prepared to act as the TTP’s suicide bombers. When our correspondents asked Hamza whether there were just Pakistani boys in the suicide bombing camps, he said, “No, a large number of the suicide bombers (a majority of them) were young Afghani boys”.

Hamza also revealed, to our great surprise, that shortly before he arrived at the training center an IEA forces’ raid by the Afghan Taliban’s intelligence agency GDI had made an attempt to rescue some of the Afghan and Pakistani boys and in some cases had actually managed to recover at least 7 Afghan boys in a raid on one of the TTP’s suicide bomber training camps. For all of its shortcomings in tackling home-grown militancy, the GDI here, as well as the Afghan Taliban leadership, must be praised for launching such crackdowns against the TTP’s suicide bomber training camps, and recovering Afghan boys that had entered there after completing the TTP’s bombing performas.

After their training period is complete the young boys are given their bombing jackets during a ‘graduation ceremony’, and sent off to blow themselves up on targets selected by the TTP elders inside Pakistan. The parents of the boys who have already been grieving for almost a year are only told that their poor son has been turned into a TTP terrorist suicide bomber after he has completed the TTP’s terrorist attack, and they are offered no recompense or blood money even.

This was one of the main reasons Hamza decided to escape and return to Pakistan. Thankfully he did that, and is now safe at home with his parents pursuing a university degree. Initially he had been told by his TTP handlers that they would provide for and take care of his family, but when he found out that no assistance is offered once the suicide bombing has been done, he was influenced to escape. He also noticed that many of the poor parents of the already blown-up young boys had repeatedly tried to contact the camp’s TTP trainers and urged them to return the belongings of their dead children, mostly clothes, books, pictures and other items but always the trainers had refused or cut off contact with those parents due to their fear of being tracked by Pakistani authorities.

But there are many others like him, countless others that are still trapped in the TTP’s suicide bomber training camps, many wanting to return to their homes. And let’s not forget the countless families that are waiting for their children to come home. We must not forget them. Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the People of these two great nations, must not forget them.


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