General John R. Allen, commander of international forces in Afghanistan, condemned the Taliban's use of children as suicide bombers, after two 10-year-olds were arrested with explosive vests for the second time.
The commander of the International Security Assistance Force, said in a statement emailed to reporters on Tuesday that the "cold tactic" was "utterly despicable." ISAF also issued a statement expressing deep regret over the deaths of several young Afghans in an air attack in Kapisa province last week.
The AFP news agency reported Monday that the two children were arrested last week.
A Kandahar province spokesman, Zalmai Ayubi, said they and three other militants were "planning an attack on Afghan and international forces in Kandahar." Ayubi said they were found with two vests full of explosives.
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AFP said the 10-year-olds were also found with explosive vests and arrested in August last year. They and 18 other children detained at that time subsequently received a pardon from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"The cold tactic of using any human being -- especially children -- to conduct suicide attacks is utterly despicable, and I denounce these tactics," Allen said in the statement.
"In now promoting child-suicide attacks, the insurgency have forfeited any remaining support they may have had with the people of Afghanistan," he added. "We stand side by side with the Afghan people to do everything we can to eliminate suicide bombers of any age from the cities, towns and villages throughout the country."
Reuters reported Monday that international forces had found the bodies of dead children in Giawa, Kapisa province. Afghan government officials showed gruesome photographs of eight dead boys, and said seven of them had been aged between six and 14, while one had been around 18 years old.
They were bombed twice while herding sheep in heavy snow and lighting a fire to keep warm, they said.
"My command's mission is to protect the civilian people of Afghanistan," Allen said in the other statement. "I take very seriously the loss of every Afghan life. We will continue to do all we can to ensure the safety of the Afghan population."
Boy told he would be 'safe'
AFP reported that two 10-year-olds had gone to Pakistan after they were released following their first arrest. There they were trained how to carry out suicide atacks, then sent back to Afghanistan.
A statement from Kandahar officials sent to AFP contained quoted attributed to the two boys, named as Azizullah and Nasibullah.
Azizullah was quoted as saying militants had told him he "would be safe after conducting a suicide attack."
He added that he had also been told that when "Americans fire at you ... they will not be able to hit you."
Nasibullah described his instructions from the Taliban in the statement.
"The Taliban forced me to fire a Kalashnikov ... I was scared at first. They also taught me how to blow my vest, they showed me how to press the button in my hand," he said.
"They then brought me to the city, asked me to sit on the side of the road and wait for foreign forces to come ... I was there when two police came and arrested me."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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