Why Target the Children?
Terrorists’ activities targeting innocent civilians, in the name of spreading terror, are such a cowardly, deplorable act. But what puts a common man in a disturbing, sleepless state is the way these extremist factions intentionally target children. Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park was said to be popular with the Christian community in Lahore, Pakistan. Many of whom were there on Sunday, March 27 to celebrate Easter Sunday. A lot of children played near the swings and that’s when the explosion happened (suicide bombing), killing mostly women and children (72 were killed and 341 were injured). “May God shower his wrath upon these attackers. What kind of people target little children in a park?” an injured 2 year old’s mother said to the media. But, in the past decade or so, we are repeatedly hearing news about deadliest attacks on places of education or on children by militant organizations.
On April 2004, armed Islamic terrorists occupied a school in the town of Beslan (situated in North Caucasus region of Russian Federation), taking 1,100 people as hostages (777 are children). The standoff between terrorists and Russian security forces went for three days and in the end at least 385 people were killed, of which 186 were children. On December 16, 2014, Pakistani Taliban faction attacked a school in Peshawar. Gunmen went from one classroom to another, slaughtering children by dozens (leaving at least 132 killed). In April 2014, Nigerian Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of school girls (and continues to do so – to use them as killing machines and sexual slavery). On December 11, 2014 in Kabul, Afghanistan, a young suicide bomber entered into a school auditorium as students were watching a play called ‘Heartbeat: Silence after the Explosion’, which was about the horrors of suicide bombing.
On April 2nd, 2015, 150 students of Garissa University (in Kenya) were slaughtered by Somali terrorist outfit Al-Shabab. More recently on January 31st, 2016, Boko Haram killed 86 people (most were children) in the villages of northeastern Nigeria. UNICEF claims that at least 1 million Nigerian children are out of school due to insurgency of Boko Haram. Using children to get at governments is not a new tactic, but what’s disturbing about these aforementioned attacks and many I may have missed out, is how the terrorist factions view attacking children as easy way to grab international spotlight. On attacks in schools, the militants claim a twisted logic. That by attacking the schools they are attacking the institutions of Western culture. Such deplorable groups view that the processes of Westernization beginning at school and so the schools that violate stern Islamic education become perfect targets. It is this disturbing ideology that feeds groups like Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Shabab.
In the case of Peshawar slaughter, the Pakistani Taliban group claimed it as retaliation for Pakistani military campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan’s tribal areas (a campaign which led to systematic killing of hundreds of civilians, including children – most of the children killed in Peshawar were children of military officers). Reporters and analysts, who have closely examined the recent attacks on children indicate two simple, vital factors other than the cases of revenge and twisted ideologies. They indicate at the internal rifts, created within the militant organization that leads to several small, violent factions. The separated small terrorist outfits, in an effort to outbid similar kind of gun-toting groups is said to intensify their attacks by doing the most brutal things. It is simple corporate business logic, used in the most disturbing way. The other factor the analysts point out is somehow paradoxical. The terrorist groups are often weakened by the powerful nations stepping-up their attacks, employing state-of-the-art weapons. Such feeble terrorist groups, left with few guns and bombs choose soft and more shocking targets like children. Once again, it is a twisted way to gain back the name and to pass on the hateful ideology.
After the Lahore attacks on Easter Sunday, reports broke that six ISIS operatives were detained in Southern Turkey, who have planned to attack Jewish Children (nurseries, youth clubs) in Turkey. Despite the capture of ISIS operatives, the Turkish intelligence officers consider the attacks on Jewish Children ‘imminent’. Israeli government had warned its citizens in Turkey. Pakistan government has now announced a major military crackdown and there are talks about cooperative approach in halting the jihadist militant violence. But, still the ways to stop this greater brutality and the approach to neutralize terrorism from the roots remains elusive.