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Bombs and beatings: Life among the Taliban

In Pakistan an account of life with the Taliban has emerged from a 13-year-old girl called Meena, who says her own family tried to turn her into a suicide bomber.

There is no independent confirmation of her account but police say they believe she is telling the truth, and her information could be valuable.

Meena told her story to our Pakistan correspondent Orla Guerin.

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Meena's brother dispatched many young suicide bombers, she says

My brother used to tell me that the place for a woman is either at home or in the grave. I was always restricted to home.

He said: "If you leave the house I'll cut off your head and put it on your chest."

My brother had been to the local school and beaten the girls and the teachers.

He said anyone who wanted to study was a friend of America.

I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted it so much that once I dreamt I was sitting in a hospital, working as a doctor. I wanted to help the poor, those who cannot afford medical fees.

Taliban commanders used to come to our house. There was an underground bunker beside the house, with electricity.

It was concrete and very strong. Cars would drive on top but no-one would realise what was underneath. In that hideout they used to train suicide bombers.

Most were children of my age or younger than me. They were used for these activities because they were too young to know any better.

Going to 'paradise'

I used to see these children getting on a vehicle to go for their missions. They used loud Islamic CDs to motivate them.

And I would think, "My God, more Muslims are going to be buried". Then the news would come that more Muslims were wiped out.

Aftermath of a suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan, October 2009
Meena says her brother helped plan a suicide attack in Peshawar

My brother used to prepare bombs and my sister-in-law did too. He told me that he would teach me this. I told him no. I would not even look at what they were doing.

My father and brother told me to carry out a suicide attack. They were pressuring me to do this.

They told me: "If you do it you will go to paradise long before us." I replied: "Why don't you tell me I will go to hell long before you?"

Every day they used to tell me this. Every day. I was very young when they started telling me this. I said to them: "What about all the people I will kill? They are all Muslims."

They started beating me when I refused. They beat me non-stop. They made my life hell. I never had a single moment of happiness. They did everything other than kill me.

Bomber's medicine

They said: "The bomb will be connected with a button, or something like the remote control of a TV. We will give you this kind of remote, and you will go to the place.

"We will also give you a mobile, and we will ring that phone, and press the remote, and you will be blown up with this bomb."

They attached a bomb to my sister Nahida

They told me they would use such a large amount of explosives that no-one would even know if it was a man or a woman.

They told me that I had to do it.

There was a kind of medicine they used to give to the bombers that made them go around smiling, in a trance.

They said they would give me that medicine, and then I would go running to die - with a smile. I was so scared I decided to prepare my own tea, and my own food.

I was afraid they would mix that medicine with my food.

Sister's story

They attached a bomb to my sister Nahida. They tied rectangular pieces to both her arms, and a black strip was wrapped around both her legs.

Meena is now in safe in the hands of police
Meena fled the Taliban and is now in a secure location

Then they connected the whole thing. She told my brother the bomb was heavy and she could not walk.

He said she would be comfortable once she was sitting down in the car.

They gave her medicine. But she was crying very loud for my mother. She kept going to her and hugging her. When my sister looked down at the bomb, she shivered.

Then my brother and my father started beating my mother, and they were shouting: "Why you are distracting the girl from her mission?"

I heard my sister saying: "Where is Meena? I want to see her." But I didn't have the strength. My heart couldn't take it.

My mother fainted when they put her in the car. My brother said my sister's attack was in Afghanistan.

I always think about my sister. She was healthy and a very nice girl. She was younger than me, but she was wiser. My mother used to tell me that I was an idiot, but she was very wise.

A 'lucky' goat

My brother was involved in the Khyber Bazaar bombing (in the frontier city of Peshawar in October 2009, in which more than 50 people were killed). It was discussed in the house.

I want these Taliban to be burned alive

When someone was sent somewhere they would talk about the target.

They would say: "We are sending this group there."

After the bombings they would celebrate. They would garland each other with flowers as people do when they come back from the Haj.

When [former Pakistani Prime Minister] Benazir Bhutto died my brother started calling everybody. They started firing, and saying "Benazir has died, Benazir has died". Everybody started firing - they celebrated until it was very late.

My brother visited a friend's house after many years and was given a goat and a motorbike which he brought home.

They used to get animals as gifts because there were so many Taliban to be fed. He asked me to take care of the goat but she ran out of the gate. I went after her.

Police officer in Lower Dir, Pakistan
Police officers in Lower Dir believe Meena is telling the truth

Our house was on a ridge. There was a stream down below. She went down to the stream and I followed her. A plane came making a lot of noise, and vibrations. (This was an attack by a helicopter gunship.)

When I looked back up to my place all I could see was a lot of smoke rising. My house was turned into rubble.

I didn't have a clue about how many of my family members were dead or alive. Since that place was full of arms and explosives I could hear big bangs.

Then I started walking and by the evening prayers I had reached a local town.

People say I have a strong heart. I've had to be strong. What can I do? God won't even let me die.

If my brother gets hold of me, I will poison him and myself.

The Taliban slaughter other people's children. They turn women into widows. They should be made to suffer too.

I want these Taliban to be burned alive.



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