(CNN) — A 10-year-old Afghan girl alleges she was pressured to carry out a would-be suicide bomb attack on a border police station in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, officials said.
There were conflicting reports about how the bomb plot was foiled, but the fact that a young girl was caught up in the middle of it was shocking enough for President Hamid Karzai to quickly condemn the alleged attackers.
“Children are the future-makers of the country. They should be taken care of, and education opportunities should be provided for them,” he said in a prepared statement. “They shouldn’t be used as a tool for suicide attacks.”
Afghan and foreign forces have arrested many would-be suicide bomber children in the past.
Last year, Afghan police intercepted 41 children whom insurgents were planning to use as suicide bombers. They were between 6 and 11 years old.
According to Karzai, the girl, known only as Spozhmai, was forced to carry out the attempted suicide attack and is now under the government’s protection.
The girl’s brother, Zahir, is known locally as Hameed Sahib and is a local Taliban commander, the country’s Interior Ministry said.
After being taken into custody, the girl was made available to reporters.
“My brother Zahir and his friend Jabar forced me to wear the suicide vest,” Spozhmai told reporters.
They told her to cross a river and make her way to the police station, she said. The station is in the town of Khanishin, government officials said.
But the water was too cold and the girl shouted, saying she couldn’t cross it, she said.
“They moved me back home and (took) off the vest from my body. My father beat me. I had to run away from home in the middle of the night and spent the rest of night in a village nearby to our home,” the girl said.
She surrendered to police the next day, she said.
When taken into custody, the girl was not wearing explosives, Umar Zwak, the spokesman for the governor of Helmand province, told CNN after reviewing the initial investigation report.
The explosives are yet to be recovered, and authorities are continuing to investigate the girl’s claims. Zwak said authorities do not trust all of what the girl has said.
He gave CNN a summary of what Spozhmai told police, which turned out to be a slightly different version of the foiled suicide bomb plot.
She told police that she was dropped off at the river with a warning that “if you come back alive, we will kill you,” Zwak said.
She told police that she crossed the river, removed the explosives from her body and started screaming, the spokesman said.
Because no one heard her, she took shelter in an abandoned building and surrendered to police at the station she was supposed to attack, he said.
Karzai said he ordered the Interior Ministry to eventually give Spozhmai back to her parents after getting assurances from them that the girl will be able to continue her family life like other children.