STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Next we'll report on what you might call the fraternity of the suicide bomber.
Afghanistan has suffered at least 110 suicide attacks this year alone. There's plenty of dispute about who the attackers are, but many have something in common. And that common link became clear to an Afghan doctor who conducts the autopsies.
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has the story from Kabul.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: In his classroom at Kabul Medical University, Dr. Yussef Yodgadi(ph) keeps the eyeball of a suicide bomber in a glass jar. Attached to the eye is a tumor that Yodgadi says left the attacker partially blind. It is one of many ailments the Afghan pathologist says he's found while autopsying remains of bombers who carried out attacks in Kabul over the past three years. Some were missing limbs before the blast; others suffered from cancer; one even had leprosy. Based on such autopsies, Yodgadi estimates at least three of every five bombers suffer from a physical ailment or disability. He says if you add in mental illnesses, the number of sick and disabled bombers climbs to more then 80 percent.
YUSSEF YODGADI: (Through translator) They are probably resentful because in Afghan society they are outcasts. They hold a grudge because many of them can't get a job. So to make money for their families, they agree to become suicide bombers.
SARHADDI NELSON: Yodgadi says guessing the bomber's motivation is easy. Identifying who they are is a lot tougher. Police here say the bombers never carry identification, and their remains are rarely claimed.
Christine Fair, who co-authored a United Nations report released in September on Afghanistan's suicide attacks, says there are other factors that make it difficult to figure out who the bombers are. She says, for one, Afghan investigations into suicide bombings leave a lot to be desired.
Afghan General Nazar Muhammad Nikzad, who heads crime scene investigations here, agrees. He complains that by the time his team is permitted to enter the scene, evidence has often been trampled or removed, sometimes by Western soldiers.
Fair says another obstacle is that Afghan suicide bombers aren't celebrated like Arab ones often are. Afghan bombers aren't featured on posters or in videos as martyrs, nor are their remains carried through town in raucous funeral parades.
CHRISTINE FAIR: Many parents don't even seem to know that their child or their relative blew himself up in this act.
SARHADDI NELSON: Fair says there's another difference between bombers in Afghanistan and other countries. Here a bomber kills an average of three victims, compared to the average of 12 elsewhere. Fair also says U.N. interviews with would-be bombers here found most are young and poorly educated.
FAIR: So the good news is, is that, you know, they're not as lethal as they are in other theaters. The bad news is, it's not really clear what it would take to get the campaign of suicide attacks to abate.
SARHADDI NELSON: University student Ais Baraksai(ph) believes there's nothing that could have stopped his friend from blowing himself up two years ago in Kabul.
AIS BARAKSAI: (Arab spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: Baraksai says his friend Arisami(ph) was a brooding loner who was upset over the Taliban's ouster. Baraksai says his friend grew a Taliban-style beard and wore traditional baggy tunics and trousers, shunning the Western jeans and shirts preferred by other university students.
BARAKSAI: (Through translator) He was depressed. He would fight with people. He was emotional, especially when it came to religious issues.
SARHADDI NELSON: Baraksai says Arisami took anti-depressants daily, but they failed to lift his mood. Baraksai says his friend talked of joining the Taliban in waging holy war, or jihad, after graduation. But he says Arisami never told him he'd been recruited as a suicide bomber.
In May 2005, Arisami walked into the Park Internet Cafe and blew himself up. He killed a U.N. worker from Myanmar and an Afghan customer and wounded five others.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.
INSKEEP: NPR's Najib Sharifi contributed to that report.
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