Children with weapons, described as “little jihadists,” are reportedly featured in a video released by the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), an al-Qaeda-linked group largely made up of ethnic Uighurs that is operating in Syria.
The video “includes photos of children with weapons and jihadist garb accompanied by an Uighur-language nasheed [A cappella Islamic music],” reports The Long War Journal (LWJ).
The TIP group reportedly described the children as “little jihadists” on its official Twitter handle. LWJ notes:
Most of the photos in the slideshow depict TIP fighters posing for the camera or operating near the front lines, while others show more scenes from the battle at the Abu Duhour airbase in Idlib province. Nearly halfway into the video, fighters are seen posing with their children before the photos exclusively feature the ‘little jihadists.’ The children are shown posing with AK-47 assault rifles, attending Sharia classes, and partaking in weapons training.
— Ibrahim al-Assil (@iAssil) September 25, 2015
— Christoph Germann (@newgreatgame) September 24, 2015
— Terrormonitor.org (@Terror_Monitor) September 25, 2015
The TIP group has shown children in training camps in the past. The Journal reports:
In July, the group first publicized a training camp in Idlib, which appears to be in the same area. Several of those photos depict the children learning how to operate AK-47’s, sub-machine guns, and other handguns. In both cases, many of the children appear to be Uighur, but it is possible that some are native Syrians. The group’s former military leader was a native Syrian and the group has featured other Syrians in its ranks before.
The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is not the only jihadist group in Syria that runs training camps for children. LWJ points out:
The TIP, Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in the country, and the Chechen-led Junud al Sham all run camps for children. Additionally, two groups in the Islamic Front coalition, Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham, a powerful al Qaeda-ally, are also known to train children. A group run by Abdullah al Muhaysini, a popular al Qaeda-linked cleric from Saudi Arabia, has also released a video showing children in training.
“The TIP in Syria is known to operate at least two other training camps in Syria. One camp is run for children, which appears to be in a different location in Idlib than the one mentioned above,” adds The Journal. “The second camp is for adult fighters, albeit in a very rudimentary setting.”
The TIP’s core leadership is primarily based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it also operates in China and has been active in Syria.
According to LWJ, the Uighur jihadist group has also advertised camps that train children and women in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The Journal reports:
In a video released in the spring of 2013, the jihadist group promoted a camp for children in Pakistan, some of whom appear to be no older than six. The children are shown firing handguns, AK-47 assault rifles, and a PKM machine-gun from various positions. As the children fire their weapons, the black flag of the Taliban and a light blue banner used by the Turkistan Islamic Party can be seen flying in the background.
“In the summer of 2013, the group published a video that showed five burka-clad women training with pistols, assault and sniper rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers,” it adds.
LWJ notes that the TIP has participated in nearly all of the major operations that have occurred in Idlib province in Syria this year.
Most members of the TIP are ethnic Uighurs. One of their primary military goals is to create an Islamic state in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
The group “fights alongside the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other jihadist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while in Syria, it fights alongside the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in the country,” noted LWJ in August.
It has been targeted by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan and U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.