Frightening footage has emerged purporting to show Kurdish security forces removing an explosive belt from an alleged Islamic State teenage suicide bomber moments before it was about to be detonated in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Sunday.
The chilling scene, caught on camera and uploaded to YouTube by Kurdish channel Kurdistan24, shows the boy’s hands being held by two law enforcement officers as another member of the security establishment attempts to disarm the device.
Wearing a Barcelona football shirt before it was cut off, the boy, believed to be 12 or 13 years old, according to Kurdish media network Rudaw, reportedly then burst into tears as he was led away by police.
The arrest is believed to have taken place in Kirkuk’s Huzairan neighbourhood, Rudaw reports, but precise details on where the boy intended to stage his potential attack are unconfirmed — it has been claimed that the boy was planning to blow himself up outside a Shia mosque, however.
The device was later safely destroyed away from the public.
The incident came less than 24 hours after a child as young as 12 killed at least 51 people and injured 69 — 17 of them seriously, according to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan — in a suicide bombing at a packed wedding ceremony in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep.
President Erdogan said on Sunday that “Daesh is the likely perpetrator of the attack”, using the Arabic name for ISIS, adding that it is not yet clear whether the youngster detonated the suicide vest or if the explosives were set off remotely by someone else.
What is clear, however, is that Islamic State is mobilizing children at “an ever-accelerating rate”.
According to a report published earlier this year by the West Point-based Combating Terrorism Centre, Islamic State is “mobilizing children and youth at an increasing and unprecedented rate [and] that the number of child and youth militants far exceeds current estimates.”
Contextualizing the upward trend in the terror group’s use of child suicide bombers, the report concluded: “It seems plausible that, as military pressure against the Islamic State has increased in recent months, such operations […] are becoming more tactically attractive.”
Recording instances of young people who were featured in official Islamic State reports as “martyrs” between January 2015 and January 2016, the report found that of the 89 cases surveyed, 39 percent died upon detonating a vehicle-borne explosive device, 33 percent were killed as foot soldiers in unspecified battlefield operations, six percent died while working as propagandists, and four percent committed suicide in mass casualty attacks against the civilian populace.