ISIS Trains Child Soldiers at Camps for ‘Cubs of the Islamic State’
Their guns are as big as they are — which is not saying much.
On the streets of Syria and Iraq, ISIS militants are building a small army — literally. The use and recruitment of child soldiers is a war crime. It’s also a practice which ISIS has boasted of in photos and videos splashed across the Internet with titles such as the “Cubs of the Islamic State.”
Instead of archery and merit badges of Cub Scouts, these boys learn how to clean, disassemble and shoot machine guns. While their peers in the U.S. build campfires, ISIS’ diminutive devotees go from Quranic recitation drills to the front line of battle.
“They teach them how to use AK-47s,” one Iraqi security official told NBC News on condition of anonymity. “They use dolls to teach them how to behead people, then they make them watch a beheading, and sometimes they force them to carry the heads in order to cast the fear away from their hearts.”
Some graduates of the camps are used as human shields and suicide bombers. Other wee warriors man checkpoints, hoist heavy weapons and act as enforcers.
Beyond the additional fighting power, analysts and experts say brainwashing young recruits is a strategic move aimed at ensuring the militant group’s longevity by providing a ready-and-willing next generation of jihadis.
“It’s being done for the same reasons that Hitler had the Hitler Youth,” explained Charlie Winter, of the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based anti-extremist think tank. “That’s effectively what we’re seeing here — military training and ideological training.”
The potent blend of military training with ideology is especially dangerous for impressionable minds, which is exactly why ISIS is targeting the young.
“There’s no term better suited to it than brainwashing,” Winter said. “These children won’t have any point of reference other than jihadism so the ideology will be a lot more firm in their heads and a lot more difficult to dislodge.”
While the use of child soldiers in Syria is not an abuse unique to ISIS, it is “most prominent” with the group, according to Winter, and billed as a necessary “education.”
“It’s something to be expected because we know that they have and are trying to be a state — which means they have to
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