The Foreign Makeup of Afghan Suicide Bombers

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 3 Issue: 7

The recent arrests of several foreign fighters, allegedly organizing or carrying out terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, demonstrate how Afghanistan is attracting international suicide bombers. According to the Afghan Interior Ministry, in the past two months police have arrested some nine foreigners—most of them Pakistani nationals—under allegations of planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.

During questioning, most of the detainees admitted that they were encouraged by religious leaders in Pakistani madrassas and were equipped, paid and sent to Afghanistan for the objective of launching suicide attacks. According to some reports, Mullah Dadullah, one of the most wanted leaders of the Taliban, are among those who visit madrassas in Pakistan and motivate young students to join a holy war against Westerners, who he says are infidels invading Afghanistan (

Assadullah Khalid, the governor of Kandahar, said authorities have recorded a videotape in which three Pakistani nationals admit that they were sent from Karachi, received suicide bombing equipment in the small Pakistani city of Quetta and then crossed the border into Afghanistan. According to the governor, the three Pakistanis are currently in detention and the tape was recorded during the interrogation.

On February 6, police arrested a Malian citizen who tried to assassinate the governor of Balkh—a northern Afghan province—in a suicide bombing. According to the Kabul-based Arman-e Melli, the suicide bomber was introduced as Croma Yaya, an IT professional who carried a NATO identification card and a working license from the Afghan Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. The government stated that he traveled over the border from Pakistan and that he was linked to al-Qaeda. An official from Balkh security headquarters reported that a Bangladeshi national was also arrested in connection with the latest terrorist activities in the province a day after Yaya’s capture. The unnamed official, as reported by Tolo TV, a private Afghan TV channel, introduced the Bangladeshi citizen as Muhamad Laal.

A part of another video was broadcast by Tolo TV on February 17 showing a number of apparently pro-Taliban individuals abusing the bodies of dead anti-Taliban and anti-al-Qaeda individuals. In the video—reportedly recorded in the Mandara region of North Waziristan—the abusers threaten anti-Taliban ideologists and chant slogans in support of Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban and one of Osama bin Laden’s followers.

“Surely the video is recorded by the ISI to blackmail the world and to inspire fear among the smallest minority of anti-Taliban personals in tribal regions of Pakistan,” said Razaaq Mamoon, a veteran Afghan journalist who has watched the full 30-minute length video. He says the individuals in the video and the way it is recorded clearly show that Pakistan’s government and its intelligence agency is “behind the curtain.” He states, “When the camera moves from one focal point to another, in a glance you can see that a Pakistani military tank is parked in a distance of some 20 meters.” His comments speak to the accusations by many in Afghanistan that the ISI is still supporting Taliban fighters. Afghanistan has recently seen more than a handful of demonstrations over alleged ISI support of the Taliban.

According to the latest figures, as reported by Pajhwak Afghan News, bodies of at least 45 insurgents who died in Afghanistan during the last two months were taken to Pakistan for burial. These Pakistani fighters died in separate gun-battles with Afghan and U.S. forces in the restive southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan.

Residents of the lawless Waziristan region of Pakistan said there were a number of families mourning over the death of those who carried out suicide attacks in Afghanistan. They also said that a large number of young men often head toward Afghanistan to fight a “holy war against infidels.”

Analysts believe there are two major factors that play a key role in Pakistan’s interest in a volatile Afghanistan: the country’s efforts to protect its nuclear installations, and its “strategic depth” policy that necessitates having influence over the government in Kabul.

Another fact that Razaaq Mamoon highlights is that Pakistan, by destabilizing its neighbor Afghanistan and otherwise expressing commitment to the international community on the war against terrorism, “blackmails the world to gain financial and political privileges.” According to Mamoon, “Pakistan wants to tell the world, if the country doesn’t support the war against terrorism, the world will face a dilemma.”

Pakistan may not be the only country supporting destabilization in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan is known as the major route through which international terrorists move into Afghanistan. There are also reports in the recent edition of the Afghan-based weekly Watandar that Iran is interested in a less stable Afghanistan. These reports are supported by the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Iran, under the notion that Iran is less willing to see Washington’s goal of establishing a prosperous Afghanistan come to fruition.