Sunni ISIS jihadists are recruiting children as young as 10 years old to fight for an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. While there are boys who voluntarily join the ISIS, there are many more who are being forced to fight for jihad.
10-year old Abdullah is the youngest known volunteer fighting with the ISIS in Iraq’s Mosul, according to The Daily Beast. It describes the moment of Abdullah casually walking into a local grocery store. This would be a common picture, except that the boy was masked and had a heavy machine gun, “about as big as him.”
Abdullah is reportedly hopeful about the prospects for the ISIS.
“We believe they will conquer all of Iraq and Persia and that they will liberate Jerusalem,” a gunman, who the news website assumed was responsible for the boy, said. “They have a dream and their dream is to establish an Islamic state.”
ISIS that has seized large parts of northern Iraq is, according to different estimates, between 7,000 to 10,000 fighters.
READ MORE: Live updates on ISIS offensive in Iraq
In Mosul, which the group overran two weeks ago, the group is believed to have 4,000 troops and is desperate for more foot soldiers, the Daily Beast reported.
As soon as the ISIS took over the city, Sunni jihadists started looking for young men aged between 10 and 30 “both to control the territories they have and to join the fight on other fronts within Iraq.”
While the 10-year old Abdullah voluntarily joined ISIS, following in his father’s and brother’s footsteps, there are boys who are taken away from their families and forced to be in the group.
In neighboring Syria, a 14-year-old from Raqqa was lured into one of the ISIS camps, The Syria Deeply reported.
Mohammed was convinced the camp, specially designed for boys 15 and younger, had been established to teach Quran and the foundation of Islam.
“ISIS said this was the purpose of the camp,” the teenager told The Syria Deeply.
However, it turned out to be more than just that.
“The training was divided into two parts. In religious classes, they taught us their version of Islam, the extremist methods they follow, and the necessary foundations of creating an Islamic caliphate state – their ultimate goal. They also try to convince us of jihadist ideology, like the greatness of martyrdom,” Mohammed said.
The camp’s “curriculum” also included combat training and lessons on how to use arms. The “course” lasted for 25 days.
Abdullah and Mohammed are, obviously, far from the only children in the ISIS ranks.
Last week footage appeared online showing young boys holding what appeared to be assault rifles and sitting in trucks full of militants parading through captured Mosul, ITV reported.
There are cases of children being kidnapped and “brainwashed” by ISIS. Abducted in May in the city of Aleppo, Syria, the fate of 133 of 159 teenagers remain uncertain.
Two of the boys who escaped told the media that ISIS was forcing the children to undergo lessons in Sharia and jihadist ideology. Jihadists beat children who misbehaved.
In its report published on June 24, the Human Rights Watch said that in Syria, ISIS specifically recruited children through free schooling campaigns that included weapons training, and have given them dangerous tasks, including suicide bombing missions.
In its annual report issued mid-May, the UN also said that “children fighting with ISIS [in Syria] are reportedly paid like adults (35,000 Syrian pounds, approximately $200) and undergo both weapons and jihadist indoctrination training.”