An illuminating piece by Mushtaq Yusufzai and Carol Grisanti for NBC News (thanks to all who sent this in):
“We were told to fight against Israel, America and non-Muslims,” said Muhammed Bakhtiar, 17, explaining why he wanted to become a suicide bomber. “We are so unhappy with our lives here. We have nothing,” he said.
Last month, Bakhtiar and his school friend, Miraj Ahmad, also 17, left their home, families, and boarding school in Buner, a district of the Malakand Division of the Northwest Frontier Province. Their destination was the Muridke madrassa right outside of Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city. The madrassa or religious school is run by the Jama”at-ud-Da”awah, the charity linked to the outlawed terrorist organization, Lashkar e Taiba. And Lashkar e Taiba has links to al-Qaida.
The grounds of this madrassa looks much like the campus of any exclusive boys boarding school — except for the bearded armed guards sporting Kalashnikovs checking all those who come and go. There is a cricket field, swimming pool, all sorts of sport activities, and horses too. In addition to religious instruction, the school offers computer sciences, engineering and pre-med classes for students ranging in age from six to 17.
It also offers jihad.
“We read about jihad in books and wanted to join,” said Ahmad. “We wanted to go to the Muridke madrassa so we would have a better life in the hereafter.”
Recruited at local high school
Ahmad said that he and his friend Bakhtiar were recruited at their high school in Buner. The recruiter offered to take the boys to Muridke for two weeks of training and then to Peshawar where they would be introduced to people and make contacts.
“We were told it is our choice to become a freedom fighter or a suicide bomber,” explained Ahmad, who had a neat beard and wore a white Muslim prayer cap. “But we should never fight against Pakistan.”
Every morning the students were taught Islamic studies; afternoons were reserved for sports. Jihadi training was given in the evenings; two classes a night.