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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 08:33 GMT 09:33 UK
Afghan children targeted by criminals
By Jenny Cuffe
BBC Radio 4's File On 4

Jamul Gul's points to where his son's finger was cut off by kidnappers
Jamul Gul's son's finger was cut off by kidnappers
Lawlessness in Afghanistan is leading to a rise in child abductions for ransom, a BBC Radio 4 investigation reveals.

The outskirts of Kandahar in Southern Afghanistan is not the kind of place you want to visit after dark. Robbers operate here and last night there was a killing.

I've come to see Jamul Gul, a cloth merchant whose family has been targeted by criminals.

One Friday five months ago, his then three-year-old son Nakibullah went missing. He spent the next 16 days searching for him, even going across the border into Pakistan.

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Then he got a letter demanding the equivalent of about 2,500 ($4,500).

"I couldn't find the money to send it the first time," he recalls woefully.

"Then I received a letter with an envelope containing the finger of my son and they told me to borrow the money, to find it wherever I could.

"And they said if you do not send it next time we will send his head to you."

Drugged and naked

His father showed me the bloody bandages he'd received stuffed into Air Mail envelopes, still holding Nakibullah's little finger and his big toe.
Jenny Cuffe
Jamal was told to leave the money by a bridge in the centre of town - but instead he wrote back asking for proof that his son was still alive.

The next letter he got contained a child's toe. That drove him to borrow the money and leave it for the kidnappers.

Then, 32 days after Nakibullah disappeared, he was found drugged and naked by the side of the road.

His father showed me the bloody bandages he had received stuffed into in Air Mail envelopes, still holding Nakibullah's little finger and his big toe.

He said he had no idea who had abducted and mutilated his son.

"I have no enmity with anyone. In their letter they told me, 'We have guns and no-one can arrest us, you should pay the money if you want your child.'"

A disturbing feature of the case makes him suspect the criminals who took Nakibullah will never be found.

The little boy is frightened of anyone wearing a military uniform.

Shocking as it is, this abduction is not an isolated incident.

Criminals here are connected to criminals over the border in Afghanistan - they trade in body organs
Dr Abdullah Laghmani
Earlier this month the head of police intelligence in Kandahar province, Dr Abdullah Laghmani, received information that two boys were being held captive in a house 70 miles (110 km) away.

Aged about 6 and 10-years-old, they were kept in squalid conditions and half-starved.

"They had been cruelly treated and beaten and warned, 'If your relatives don't send money we will chop your fingers off,'" said Dr Laghmani.

"They drew a line across their fingers showing them where they would be cut."

Corrupt courts

Unusually, a man has been arrested for kidnapping the two boys, but Kandahar doesn't have the courts and judges that can try him and he may well be able to buy his own way to freedom.

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Two years on from the Loya Jirga, the traditional meeting which set up the transitional government, the deputy Interior Minister, Halal Uddin Halal, admitted there is no effective criminal justice system.

"I agree there is corruption but there is a reason - the prosecutors, judges and others working in the courts have difficulty making ends meet.

"Their salaries are too low for a decent standard of living and that's why our judicial system is in such a mess."

But paying more to judges and government officials won't solve the problem of lawlessness in Afghanistan.

It's too deeply entrenched in the very structure of society.

File On 4: BBC Radio 4: Tuesday 29 June at 2000 BST and repeated on Sunday 4 July at 1700 BST.




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