Islamabad: Pakistan police claimed on Wednesday they had arrested 11 children, some as young as 10, who were allegedly being used by Baloch militants for "subversive activities" like planting bombs in Quetta. The children were detained during a raid conducted late Tuesday night but the seven men who had lured them managed to escape, Quetta police chief Mir Zubair Mahmood told a news conference.
He presented the children before the media in the southwestern city of Quetta. "The successful raid, which was carried out in the city, led to the arrest of 11 children between the ages of 10 and 17," Mahmood said.
A banned Baloch militant group had lured the children, who came from poor families. Mahmood said the children had confessed to their involvement in "subversive activities", including a dozen bomb attacks.
One bomb blast at Meezan Chowk in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, had killed 12 people on January 10. The children were made to leave packages with home-made bombs in markets, dustbins and roads used by police and security forces, Mahmood said.
The militants chose the children knowing that police would not suspect them and they were paid between Rs 2,000 and 5,000. "Some of the children said they did not know what the packets contained and what they were doing. They said they were happy they would get a small amount of money for dropping the packets," he said.
It was a matter of great concern that banned groups were using innocent and poor children in such a manner, he added. "Things are being worked out to ensure that innocent children who were used for the banned group's designs are treated in an efficient way. We are deeply concerned that they should be secured from turning into hardened criminals," Mahmood said.
He said several steps had been taken to improve law and order in Quetta, including the allocation of Rs 500 million for installing CCTV cameras and other equipment for technical surveillance. As part of a new security plan, over 1000 people would be recruited in the police department.
Balochistan has been hit by an insurgency by nationalist groups as well as sectarian and ethnic violence. Quetta and its surrounding areas have been the focus of sectarian violence and two recent bombings targeting the minority Shia Hazara community killed nearly 200 people.