The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS) has escalated its efforts to recruit child soldiers to make up for all the soldiers it has lost.
“Reports that we’re getting from the ground that there are more and more defectors, but also that increasingly Daesh [ISIS] is relying on child soldiers,” explained spokesman John Kirby. “Those are good indications that they are struggling with their ability to recruit and to retain manpower.”
Kirby also said the Islamic State uses these children “to conduct suicide attacks,” a practice already commonly in use by its West Africa affiliate, Boko Haram.
Media activist Mohammed Dujana told ARA News the “group received heavy blows over the last few months,” mainly from the U.S.-led coalition.
“As many fled from the militant group’s ranks, Daesh forced dozens of children to join its jihadi training camp in Mosul,” stated Dujana.
Last month, Kurdish officials made a similar claim: the Islamic State has resorted to using child soldiers and drugging adult jihadists to keep Mosul, Iraq, under control.
“In the beginning they had powerful weapons they stole from the Iraqi Army, but over time the coalition strikes have destroyed such weapons,” claimed Jaffar Ibrahim Eminki, deputy speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament. “And ISIS is being defeated at many strategic points.”
Former Saddam Hussein Sunni loyalists have rapidly begun to desert the terrorist group. Militants must use reserve soldiers, with some as young as 13 years old.
“At the beginning, the Da’esh was all former Iraq military and Baath party leaders. They had experience, top bomb tech specialists and most were very skilled,” said Kamal Kirkuki, spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party. “The new ones who have contacted them online and come to join have much less experience.”
The Islamic State has used children in numerous ways since it has established its Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child reported the militants force “mentally handicapped kids into service as suicide bombers.” Another video displayed militants training child soldiers at a camp in Iraq.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the Islamic State also recruited 400 children in 2015 alone. The group targets schools and mosques in areas it controls in Iraq and Syria.
In February 2015, the militant group debuted an advertisement for its “Farouk Institute for Cubs” to train the young boys in radical Islam and warfare. NBC News estimated the video contained at least 80 percent foreign children. The video shows the children in military and religious classes, wearing headbands branding the Islamic State logo.
A few months later, Sheikh Shamo, a Kurdish Yazidi member of Iraqi Parliament, reported the Islamic State has forced many abducted Yazidi children to be used as soldiers for the terrorist group.