KABUL Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered on Tuesday that eight would-be child suicide bombers, groomed by the Taliban but rescued by authorities, be sent back to their families.
The group, which contains a seven-year-old, are the youngest among some 20 children who were detained before conducting what authorities said were suicide bomb attacks across the country.
"These are our children whom the Taliban deceived," Karzai told reporters as he marked Eid al-Fitr, Islam's most important festival, which honors the end of the Ramadan fasting month.
Suicide bombings have become more widespread across the country in recent months, with assailants taking to innovative tactics such as concealing bombs in turbans and using children.
"Five of the children will join their parents, we are looking for the parents of two more and the last child is afraid to go back due to security reasons," Karzai's deputy spokesman Simak Herawi said.
Karzai met the eight children last week in Kabul before ordering that they be sent home.
Officials had said the remaining 12, all under 18, would be returned to their homes after education and reintegration programs.
The United States and the NATO-led alliance fighting in Afghanistan, facing rising discontent at home over a war that has dragged on for 10 years, backed Kabul's peace plan earlier this year, which involves negotiating with the Taliban.
"We ask the Taliban yet again, and those who have strangers' guns on their shoulders, to put their weapons down and join the process of reconstruction in their country," Karzai said. "Don't deceive children to destroy the country."
(Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Nick Macfie)