QUETTA (AFP) - Pakistani police have arrested around a dozen children, some as young as 10, suspected of being used to plant bombs for separatist militants, officers said on Wednesday.
The arrests were made in raids over the past 24 hours, local police chief Mir Zubair Mahmood said while presenting the children at a news conference in Quetta, the capital of the restive province of Baluchistan.
A Baluch militant organisation had lured the children, who came from poor families, to leave packages containing home-made bombs in markets, dustbins and on routes used by police and security forces, Mr Mahmood said.
Mr Mahmood said the militants chose the youngsters knowing that police would not suspect small children or garbage collectors.
"Some of the children said they did not know what the packets contained and what they are doing," he said.
"They said they were happy they would get a small amount of money for dropping the packets."
Some of the boys, aged between 10 and 17, have confessed to involvement in about a dozen blasts in the city including a bombing near a vehicle of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC), he said.
The Jan 10 bomb blast killed two FC soldiers and nine civilians.
Baluchistan has been hit by an insurgency in recent years by Baluch nationalists demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the province's wealth of natural oil, gas and mineral resources.
The province has also been the focus of rising sectarian violence and Quetta has been hit by two huge bombings this year targeting minority Shiite Muslims that have killed nearly 200 people.