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Sunday, 19 July 2015

The horrors of IS kids training camp

The children had all been shown videos of beheadings and told by their trainers with the Islamic State group that they would perform one someday. First, they had to practice technique. The more than 120 boys were each given a doll and a sword and told, cut off its head.

A 14-year-old who was among the boys, all abducted from Iraq's Yazidi religious minority, said he couldn't cut it right. He chopped once, twice, three times.


"Then they taught me how to hold the sword, and they told me how to hit. They told me it was the head of the infidels," the boy, renamed Yahya by his IS captors, told The Associated Press last week in northern Iraq, where he fled after escaping the IS training camp.

When Islamic State extremists overran Yazidi towns in northern Iraq last year, they butchered older men and enslaved many of the women and girls. Dozens of young Yazidi boys like Yahya had a different fate: The IS sought to re-educate them. They forced them to convert to Islam from their ancient faith and tried to turn them into jihadi fighters.

It is part of a concerted effort by the extremists to build a new generation of militants, according to AP interviews with residents who fled or still live under IS in Syria and Iraq. The group is recruiting teens and children using gifts, threats and brainwashing. Boys have been turned into killers and suicide bombers. An IS video issued last week showed a boy beheading a Syrian soldier under an adult militant's supervision. Last month, a video showed 25 children unflinchingly shooting 25 captured Syrian soldiers in the head.

In schools and mosques, militants infuse children with extremist doctrine, often turning them against their own parents. Fighters in the street befriend children with toys. IS training camps churn out the Ashbal, Arabic for "lion cubs," child fighters for the "caliphate" that IS declared across its territory. The caliphate is a historic form of Islamic rule that the group claims to be reviving with its own radical interpretation, though the vast majority of Muslims reject its claims.

"I am terribly worried about future generations," said Abu Hafs Naqshabandi, a Syrian sheikh who runs religion classes for refugees in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa to counter IS ideology.


The indoctrination mainly targets Sunni Muslim children. In IS-held towns, militants show young people videos at street booths. They hold outdoor events for children, distributing soft drinks and candy - and propaganda.

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