BAGHDAD — A second Islamic State video purporting to show a child executing a prisoner reflects a concerted effort by the brutal group to brainwash and train a new generation of militant Muslims.
The Islamic State video released late Tuesday shows a boy described as a “cub of the caliphate” shooting an alleged Israeli spy, Mohamed Said Ismail Musalam, 19, three times in the head. The videocould not be independently verified.
In January, the group posted a video showing a boy shooting two Russian intelligence agents in the back of the head. The boys in both videos appear to be around 10 to 12,but their actual ages are not known.
The children apparently are part of a larger cadre of youngsters being groomed by the terrorist group. Some 600 children younger than age 13 are patrolling the streets of Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, according to Nineveh’s Freemen, an activist group that documents Islamic State fighters inside territory held by the militant group.
“I have met child soldiers once or twice,” said Abu Mohammed, a Mosul resident. “One of those soldiers was only 5 years old and carrying a weapon. I was shocked.”
Videos released soon after the Islamic State captured Mosul last summer showed adult trainers beating black-garbed children with sticks and forcing the young would-be fighters to break concrete blocks over their heads during martial-arts training. Later, the children were shown shooting rifles in the air, climbing dusty hills and learning how to detain a prisoner.
Other videos by the group — which controls wide swathes of Iraq and Syria — have shown teenagers blowing themselves up at a Shiite mosque in Baghdad and driving explosive-packed vehicles into a government security checkpoint in Tikrit.
Many of these children are the sons of Islamic State militants, reflecting the need to recruit more fighters as the terrorist group looks to extend its control over more land.
“They have become a necessity,” said Riyadh Mohammed, an Iraqi journalist and former justice ministry spokesman. He pointed out that fighters younger than 18 comprised most of the reinforcements sent to Kobani, the Syrian town on the Turkish border where Kurdish forces ousted the Islamic State in January.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, entices young people to enlist with promises of treasure. “They are providing their fighters with everything: gasoline, salaries, supplies and women to marry, gifts,” said Abu Hassan, a Mosul resident.
Efforts are underway to oust Islamic State militants from the city of Tikrit, plus a later counteroffensive is planned to retake Mosul. If the Iraqi government succeeds in driving out the militants, that raises questions about what will happen to these militant children — and how to reverse the brainwashing.
“We will need exceptional human and financial resources over a long time to eliminate the radical ideologies being implanted by the Islamic State in young generations’ minds,” said Bashir Nadhir Hameed, a sociologist at Al-Mustansiriyah University in Baghdad.
The militants published a guidebook this year directing mothers on how to bring their sons and daughters into the fold of Islamic extremism. “Raising children to be brave, courageous and sensitive, and fearing none other than Allah is the most important role women can play,” the booklet states.
The guide also praises female Islamic fighters as a way to encourage girls to fight and instructs mothers to tell their children bedtime stories about martyrdom and heroic jihadists. Children should be prohibited from watching regular television because it teaches shamelessness, and instead be encouraged to watch violent videos of Islamic State battles, it states.
“The media centers in public areas display videos of explosions, battles and executions all day long, with seats for the spectators to watch them,” Hassan said. “Children are watching such videos. This is devastating.”
Nabeel reported from Istanbul