Umar Khitab, 15, was a would-be suicide bomber. He remembers the day he arrived at a Taliban "suicide nursery", a school for young suicide bombers.
"There were 13 other children, mostly from FATA (the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan) and Malakand, who had been brought for training," Khitab, a resident of Charbagh Tehsil in Swat, said. "The training camp located in South Waziristan had a lot of facilities, such as computers, compact discs, and audio and video."
Fortunately before Khitab was sent on a mission he was freed and has now been rehabilitated at an army-run centre in Malakand.
Hundreds of children are undergoing brainwashing at a number of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) training centres in FATA, according to Pakistani intelligence.
On April 8th, 14 year-old failed suicide bomber, Umar who was arrested during the Dera Ghazi Khan Shrine attack April 3rd, told media there were 350 to 400 suicide bombers, many of them teenagers, being trained by the TTP in North Waziristan.
"They keep teens in isolation, secluded from other people. Only three to four people are allowed to meet them," said Abdul Basit, a scholar of suicide bombings at the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies in Islamabad.
As many as 5,000 Pakistani children have received militant training, including on suicide bombing, the institute estimated.
Some teens come from madrassas, where they learn a distorted version of Islam from extremist, often religiously ignorant, clerics, analysts say.
More theological brainwashing awaits teens at the TTP training centres, which meld them with talk of jihad, a route to Paradise through killing infidels, and promises of 72 virgins.
They also watch videos purportedly showing the killing of Muslims by non-Muslims in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Instructors tell them that a war is being waged against Islam.
The TTP also trains them in kidnapping, explosives and weapons.
In May 2008, the Pakistani Army's 14 Division took Spinkai in South Waziristan. There they found a training camp run by Qari Hussain, then suspected of being in charge of suicide bombings in Pakistan, according to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.
Army officers found a well-equipped training centre with computers, video equipment and literature that showed how children as young as 10 learned to become suicide bombers, Dawn reported. Some videos showed how to make and detonate improvised explosive devices. One recovered video showed a group of teenage boys, some clearly pre-teens, wearing white head bands being lectured by a masked instructor as armed guards stood nearby.
"They have qualified experts in the training camps located in FATA. (The) majority of the would-be bombers receive their training in those camps and then are sent to hit the targets elsewhere in the country," Shafqat Ali, a Malakand Division senior police officer, said.
"We arrested more than 300 would-be suicide bombers during the past two years. The majority of them were quite young and knew about the planting of explosives, making and wearing and detonating suicide jackets," he said.
The militants used to send suicide attackers out from FATA but have changed their tactics after the government tightened security.
Now, after initial training at a centre, they send the bombers to a school nearer the target. "In case of planning a suicide attack in Peshawar, the militants prepare the bombers in a nearby place as about 50 would-be bombers have been arrested by police and security forces during the past three years," Ali said.
In October, police in Karachi arrested a 16-year-old would-be suicide bomber, who revealed that the TTP had established a training school outside Karachi.
In a madrassa, the teenager, Mohammad Salaam, met a man called Zahir Shah. "He convinced me that Muslims globally are being subjected to brutality," Salaam told investigators.
"They deliver lectures and sermons in an attempt to … brainwash young men to join their ranks and carry out suicide bombings," Salaam recalled.
Salaam said instructors told him that as a good Muslim he had a duty to defend Islam, and that "as soon as I blow myself up, I will be in heaven and will get eternal peace."
They also threatened to kill him if he refused to carry out a suicide attack. Salaam agreed to become a suicide bomber, but Karachi police arrested him before he could execute his orders.
Militants isolate bombers both in the training centres and once they're on their way to a mission. A handler usually accompanies them, guides them to the target, and then leaves them to detonate their explosives.
Some bombers falter before mission
Sometimes, though, if bombers lose contact with the handler, they also lose their sense of mission.
Police arrested two such rudderless bombers in Peshawar last August. "Both had lost contact with their handlers," a police officer in Pishtakhara Police Station told centralasiaonline.com. "The bombers from Mohmand Agency were staying somewhere in Peshawar where they had been prepared for attacks. At the 11th hour, they failed to contact their handlers, which led to their arrest."
Security forces captured the pair when they defied orders to halt and tried to run away. Police found suicide jackets and ammunition in the large shopping bags they were carrying.
"A communication gap between the suicide bombers and their handlers also led to the arrest of a student of University of Peshawar in early February this year," campus police officer Daud Khan said. "He had been designated to blow himself up on the campus."
"I have received complete training in Bajaur Agency, where they gave us Pashtu books that contained the methods of making and planting bombs and carrying and transportation of explosives," Jamil Ahmed, the 17-year-old detainee, told investigators. Later, he changed his mind and informed the police because he didn't want to kill the innocent.
Militants have used other means to ensure bombers don't waver before blowing themselves up.
"Before sending them on a mission, they are administered some narco-drugs which keep them semi-conscious," Haroon Rashid, another would-be bomber, told police.
Rashid was arrested in Peshawar's University Town May 6th when he failed to detonate a suicide bomb at a foreign mission in the area.