Afghanistan has reportedly apprehended two boys, age 12 and 14, affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch in the region known as the Khorasan Province (IS-KP/ISIL-K).
Citing unnamed local officials, Khaama Press (KP) notes that the boys have been arrested in the ISIL-K stronghold of Nangarhar, an eastern province in Afghanistan that borders Pakistan, where the terrorist group is also active.
“The officials further added that the two teenage boys were arrested around 12:00 pm local time today [Tuesday],” also reports KP, adding, “According to the local security officials, the two boys are originally hailing from Shah district of northern Faryab province.”
Last month, American Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, acknowledged in an exclusive interview with NBC News that ISIL-K is “trying to establish their caliphate, the Khorasan caliphate, inside Afghanistan.”
On the same day, American Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, a Kabul-based spokesman for the U.S.-NATO mission in Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters that the U.S.-backed Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) had reduced the number of ISIL-K jihadists by “15 to 20 percent” to about 1,000 fighters.
Khorasan is a historical name for a region that covers Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, parts of India, and other surrounding countries.
The U.S.-backed ANDSF, which includes police and army units, have been targeting ISIL-K in its stronghold of Nangarhar province for months.
ISIS officially announced the establishment of its branch in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in January 2015, less than a month after U.S. President Barack Obama declared an end to the American combat mission in Afghanistan.
ISIL-K has not officially commented on the arrest of the two boys.
“The use of children as child soldiers and in terrorist attacks, specifically in suicide bombings, is not rare in Afghanistan,” points out KP. “Madrasas are described as the main recruitment source for the militant groups as poor families in Pakistan and Afghanistan send their sons to such madrassas for free education and lodging.”
Earlier this year, the United Nations reported that during that first half of 2016, it recorded 26 children recruited and used by Taliban jihadists, four children by other terrorist groups, such as ISIL-K, and four children by Afghan Local Police (ALP), a component of the ANDSF.
The UN explained:
Recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups refers to “any person below 18 years of age who is recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, spies or for sexual purposes…”
Given the high likelihood of under-reporting… this data may not accurately reflect the actual scale of child recruitment by parties to the conflict.
In August, the U.S.-funded and trained Afghan security forces in eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province killed a group of 27 terrorists, including two young girls equipped with suicide vests, revealed the country’s Ministry of Defense (MoD).
Both the Taliban and its rival ISIL-K are known to operate in Nuristan.
KP further notes that in April, the ANDSF detained a teenage “would-be suicide bomber” assigned for an attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
“Earlier, a 12-year-old child assigned for a suicide mission surrendered himself to the security forces in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan,” it adds. “According to the local security officials, the child was taken to Jalalabad city from the neighboring Pakistan for the suicide mission by the militant groups.”