'400 Pakistan suicide bombers in training'
Islamabad - A teenager arrested as an accomplice to Pakistan's deadliest suicide bombing of the year has said that up to 400 suicide bombers are being groomed to wage carnage in the nuclear-armed nation.
Umar Fidayee, aged 14, said the would-be bombers were being trained in North Waziristan, the premier al-Qaeda and Taliban fortress in Pakistan's tribal belt where US officials want Pakistan to flush out militant strongholds.
He made the remarks in an interview aired on Friday from his hospital bedside, where he is being treated after detonating a hand grenade in the April 4 attack that killed 50 people at a 13th-century Sufi shrine.
It was Pakistan's deadliest bomb attack since November.
Police arrested Fidayee as an alleged accomplice and said they removed his own suicide vest, which he failed to detonate in a crowd of hundreds in Dera Ghazi Khan just minutes after two other bombers blew themselves up.
Shown covered in tubes and bandages, the teen appeared to express remorse and lifted the lid on harrowing details of his training at the camp in the Mir Ali district of North Waziristan, which lies on the border with Afghanistan.
"Three hundred and fifty to 400 would-be suicide bombers are getting training in Mir Ali in North Waziristan," he said in the interview broadcast by Pakistani television channels Samaa, Express, ARY and Geo.
"I was trained for two months and saw many boys being trained there," he said, going on to appeal on Pakistanis to "please forgive me".
"God has given me a new life but I am sad that we killed innocent people, innocent children," he said.
Fidayee said he was initially recruited on the understanding that he would be smuggled into Afghanistan to kill non-Muslims.
"But they brought me here to Dera Ghazi Khan. I told them 'there is no kafir (non-believer) here'," he said.
"They told me these people are worse than kafirs," Fidayee said.
Message to potential bombers
Exposing an apparently disturbing recruitment at the gates of an ordinary school in North Waziristan, the teenager claimed a man he identified as Qari Zafar convinced him to begin a life of militancy.
"He told me that all this education is useless and said 'become a fighter and you will go to heaven'," Umar told the reporters.
He said he was told to attack the shrine 30 minutes after the other two detonated their bombs, in order to cause maximum carnage among those rushing to aid casualties of the first two blasts.
In a message to other potential suicide bombers he said: "Please refuse to carry suicide attacks. Such attacks are forbidden in Islam."
Islamist militants have increasingly targeted Sufi worshippers, who follow a mystical strain of Islam, in Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Dera Ghazi Khan is close to Pakistan's tribal belt which is described by Washington as the most dangerous place on Earth and an al-Qaeda headquarters.
More than 4 200 people have been killed across Pakistan in attacks blamed on homegrown Taliban and other Islamist extremist networks since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.