Entries in Swat valley (1)


Rehab for Terrorists? Pakistan Works With Extremist Teens

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SWAT, Pakistan) -- Once a terrorist always a terrorist? Not so, says Pakistani military officials who are using psychiatry, education and religion to rehabilitate more than 150 teenage extremists.

Opinions on whether terrorists can be rehabilitated are still mixed. Saudi Arabia has tried to re-educate known jihadists for the past few years with limited success. But the Pakistani military believes its program can teach the young men -- ages 14 to 17 -- how to think for themselves and become productive members of society.

The teenagers are housed in a compound in Pakistan's Swat valley, an area that just a few years ago was a Taliban stronghold, where beatings and beheadings were constant. Today, Taliban headquarters is gone, destroyed by the Pakistan army, and the area is home to reopened schools and shops. But the half-million people who live there vividly recall the days of Taliban rule -- hundreds of them sided with the terrorists, many, the army says, out of fear.

The young men undergoing rehabilitation are kept in their compound 24 hours a day, meeting with psychologists, teachers and religious instructors. Security is a constant presence. Some of the young men have killed or tortured their countrymen and were ready to carry out suicide bombings. One of them told ABC News that the Taliban told him fighting the Pakistani army "was the right thing to do."

A student in the reintegration program told ABC News that he thinks differently now and would never go back to the Taliban.

Only 11 of the 152 young men going through the program are considered ready for reintegration. In Pakistan, the army and the community will help to monitor the young men for a year or more and help them to get jobs.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio