Analysis of 89 deaths of minors finds 39% drove vehicles laden with explosives, while a third died as foot soldiers
Friday 19 February 2016
Islamic State has been dispatching children and teenagers into battle and sending them as suicide bombers at an unprecedented rate, analysis by US researchers has found.
Examining Isis death notices of 89 children and youths on Twitter and the encrypted communications app Telegram, a study by Georgia State University found that the minors came from at least 14 nationalities, with just under two-thirds aged between 12 and 16.
According to the analysis, which ran from the start of 2015 until the end of January this year, the death rate has doubled for those aged 18 and under being used by Isis. Overall, 39% of them were used to drive cars or trucks laden with explosives at the enemy. A further 33% died as foot soldiers.
There were three times as many suicide operations involving children and youth in January 2016 as the previous January, the researchers found.
“The Islamic State has so heavily championed the mobilisation of children – on a scale rarely associated even with violent extremist organisations – that it suggests organisational concerns that far outweigh short-term propaganda benefits,” the report said.
The report’s co-author Charlie Winter said what surprised him was that Isis was not using children in a way that substantially differed from adult soldiers. “The way children are being used is perhaps counterintuitive in the context of child soldier precedence. They aren’t just being used to buoy the ranks of Isis nor are they being used in roles that adults can’t engage in,” he said.
“Children and youth don’t really receive any special treatment from Isis propagandists. They’re celebrated in exactly the same way adults are. And they’re celebrated alongside adults rather than being given any recognition for their age … It’s almost an incidental fact.”
Although explicit information on age from Isis sources was scant, Winter said the researchers were cautiously using child development theory guidelines to classify subjects and that all those in the sample used were believed to be 18 or under.
Examining the location of where children died against their given nationalities, Winter said many appeared to have been imported into conflict in Iraq from bordering Syria.