ISIS increasingly relies on child jihadists amid mass losses and desertion (VIDEO)
“The use of minors shows not only how brutal the terrorist group is but also how desperate,” says Chichakyan.
The dire situation in which IS finds itself – under attack from both Russian and US air forces for the past 6 months – prompted it to count more on homegrown fighters, namely young children, some no older than 8. Many of them were kidnapped. It was reported that around 400 Yazidi children were abducted in Iraq by IS militants in January alone.
“Reports that we’re getting from the ground that there are more and more defectors, but also that increasingly Daesh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State) is relying on child soldiers,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday, adding that it indicates that “they are struggling with their ability to recruit and to retain manpower.”
Islamic State has been using children at the battleground as well for propaganda purposes since its emergence. The Ashbal al-Khilafa or “Cubs of the Caliphate” undergo military training and indoctrination in special camps, were seen showcasing their harrowing skills in a number of videos, published by the terror group online.
In one of them released in December last year, a group of six children each about 8 years old, apparently participate in an appalling hide-and-seek game. The video titled “To the Son of Jews” shows children guided by a senior IS ‘instructor’ executing one captive each by gunshot at a close range. The captives, who are described as “Syrian government spies” are hidden amid the ancient ruins. The last boy, instead of shooting his prey, takes a knife and beheads the victim.
Another disturbing video shows a 4-year-old infant, dressed in camouflage clothing and nicknamed Jihadi Junior, blowing up three prisoners by pressing a button on a remote control. The footage emerged February this year.
According to a UN-endorsed report, prepared by a London-based think tank and entitled “Children of Islamic State” between August 1 last year and February 9 this year, a total of 254 events or statements featuring images of children in IS propaganda have been identified. The methods the adult ‘instructors’ use to recruit young children are often coercive with abduction being the favorite method. The report also argues that brainwashing techniques applied by IS resemble those used in Hitler Youth.
Advances by Syrian and Russian forces, as well as strikes conducted by the US-led coalition, have noticeably weakened Islamic State and made hundreds of people desert from its ranks. Earlier reports surfaced that eight Dutch jihadists accused of a desertion attempt were executed by local ISIS fighters in the terror group’s stronghold of Raqqa late in February. The number of fighters defecting from IS to join other radical Islamic groups grows, as IS leadership supposedly opened a witch hunt on “infidels”.
“They killed us, they called us infidels, doubted us. We supported them and they doubted us,” a man said in a video of what appears to be a group of former Islamic State fighters fleeing Aleppo.
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The Russian Defense Ministry reported that the country’s Air Force in Syria had carried out more than 9000 sorties since September 30, 2015. During the course of the campaign, the territory under terrorist control has shrunk significantly. Concerted efforts by Syrian and Russian “have freed 400 populated areas and over 10,000 square kilometers [3,860 square miles] of territories," according to Russia`s defense minister Sergey Shoigu.
IS also sustained a heavy blow to illicit oil trade, the major source of its income. Russian warplanes in Syria have destroyed 209 terrorist oil production facilities and about 3,000 oil delivery trucks. On March 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered withdrawal of the man part of Russian military planes from Syria as the operation’s stated objectives have been largely accomplished.