The Times reported Tuesday that two 10-year-olds who had been arrested for trying to carry out suicide attacks, then released last year, had been rearrested -- for trying to carry out suicide bombings.
Provincial spokesman Zalmay Ayubi said the boys each had a vest full of explosives when they were detained along with three adults suspected of being militants, and that they told intelligence officers they had been recruited for suicide missions.
A statement from provincial officials quoted one of the boys, named Azizullah, as saying the pair had undergone training at a madrasa, or religious school, in Pakistan. The mullahs there told the boys they would be unharmed when they set off their bombs, Azizullah reportedly said.
News of the boys' arrest came the same week that Muslim militant Umar Patek appeared in court in Indonesia to answer charges related to deadly bombings a decade ago in Bali that killed 202 people in a nightclub. Oddly enough -- or perhaps not -- he was captured last year in Abbottabad, the Pakistani town where Osama bin Laden was hiding.
But unlike the 202 people killed in the bombings, Patek gets a lawyer. And surprise, he downplayed his client's role: "His involvement in the Bali bombing ... [was] not as big as is being described. We will challenge that in a defense plea next week."
Also this week, a radical Islamic preacher, Abu Qatada, who had been under detention in Britain for most of the last 6 1/2 years, was released from jail Monday.
British officials consider him extremely dangerous, saying he encourages suicide attacks and terrorism, and they want him sent back to Jordan to face terrorism charges.
But Abu Qatada also is being given the benefit of the doubt in some legal circles. Last month the European Court of Human Rights blocked his deportation, saying he could face conviction on the basis of evidence obtained by torture.
And what do these cases have in common?
They show the difficulty -- perhaps even the futility -- of trying to fight terrorism within the judicial system.
When religious leaders find it acceptable to use children as bombs, it says something terrible about the values of our enemies.
And although it's a tribute to modern society that we remain committed to legal rules, those same legal rules can be -- are being -- manipulated by those committed to our destruction.
It would be nice if there were an easy answer. Perhaps the madrasas that are training children to be terrorists should be shut down?
Not likely. As the recent controversy in the U.S. over health insurance coverage for contraceptives shows, government interference in religious freedom is a tough sell everywhere.
No, we're stuck. We must stick to our legal system. We must allow freedom of religion.
And we must fight our enemies and safeguard our soldiers and our nation.
But it would be nice if we could keep 10-year-olds out of the fight.
Photo: Taliban fighters walk with their weapons after joining the Afghan government forces during a ceremony in Herat province. Credit: Aref Karimi /AFP/Getty Images