The children turned into killers

Written By komlim puldel on Jumat, 23 Januari 2015 | 20.01

In the latest video released by ISIS, a child appears to carry out the execution of two Russian spies

A young child holding a gun in an Islamic State propaganda video. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

THAT the latest Islamic State video — purporting to show a young boy executing two men — shocked anyone says more about the West and what we ignore than Islamic State's vile tactics.

Because, as horrific as it is, the use — and abuse — of child soldiers, as young as eight, is nothing new.

Since 2000, the participation of child soldiers has been reported in most armed conflicts and in almost every region of the world, according to Child Soldiers International.

WARNING: This story contains graphic images which may distress some readers.

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Chilling images ... a child soldier executes Russian spies in an Islamic State video. Source: Supplied

Child combatants have been found on battlefields throughout history and in at least 19 countries since 2011.

There are no exact figures but UNICEF estimates there are over 250,000 children involved with armed groups, being used for everything from frontline fighters, suicide bombers or human shields to porters, couriers, spies, messengers and guards.

They are also used to perform domestic duties such as cooking and cleaning.

Opening fire ... an Islamic State child soldiers engages in target practice. Source: Supplied. Source: Supplied

Both boys and girls face the risk of sexual abuse, while girls are often forced into marriage.

There are reports out of The Council on Foreign Relations that girls, impregnated by their commanders, have even been forced to fight with their babies strapped to their backs.

Experts say some of the benefits of using children include that they are vulnerable, easily intimidated and easily manipulated.

Human Rights Watch says many are abducted or recruited by force, while others join out of desperation, believing that armed groups offer their best chance for survival.

"Children are sometimes forced to commit atrocities against their own family or neighbours.

Such practices help ensure that the child is 'stigmatised' and unable to return to his or her

home community," according to a HRW report.

Brainwashed ... Islamic State child soldiers threaten to kill all non-believers. Source: Supplied. Source: Supplied

"Children are uniquely vulnerable to military recruitment because of their emotional and

physical immaturity. They are easily manipulated and can be drawn into violence that they

are too young to resist or understand."

Given the widespread use of child soldiers, the recent Islamic State video purporting to show a young boy executing two 'Russian spies' shouldn't shock anyone.

The video, released last week, shows the child fatally shooting the pair after they were interrogated on camera about their alleged attempts to infiltrate the IS group in Syria.

Too late ... A Zairean Mayi-Mayi rebel child soldier drives on a truck towards the front line in Beni, 350 km north of Goma, in 1996. Photo: AP. Source: AP

The end of the video appears to feature footage of the same boy from an earlier IS propaganda video telling an interviewer he wants to grow up to kill "infidels".

In the earlier video, the boy gave his name as Abdallah, and said he was from Kazakhstan.

Abdallah's story echoes that of thousands of children who are illegally recruited, either by force or below the legal age, across dozens of countries where conflicts currently rage.

Under international law, the recruitment and use of children under 15 is a war crime.

Born to fight ... a child soldier of Uganda in 1996. Picture: World Vision. Source: News Limited

Yet hundreds of thousands of children are still being stolen into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a variety of other armed groups.

"Sometimes they are forcibly abducted. In some instances for example in northern Uganda, the Lord's Resistance Army actually forces children to kill some of their relatives to make sure that they don't go back." UNICEF's director of emergency programs Nils Kastberg once told CNN.

In recent years, Amnesty International has documented use or allegations of use of child soldiers in numerous other countries, including Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Somalia, and Yemen.

Hard-line ... Islamist teenage fighters man a checkpoint at a road in the vicinity of the presidential palace in Mogadishu, on May 14, 2009. Photo: AFP. Source: AFP


Insurgent groups, including the Taliban and other armed groups, use children as fighters, including in suicide attacks, according to Human Rights Watch.

The UN also reports recruitment of children by the Afghan National Police.


Both state armed forces and non-state armed groups use children in armed conflict, according to Child Soldier International.

Hundreds of underage boys, as young as 11, have been recruited into the national army and deployed to areas where state forces have been fighting armed opposition groups.

Children, who are often recruited off the streets and sent into combat operations, also serve with some of the armed ethnic opposition groups.

Central African Republic

About 6,000 children in CAR are believed to be linked to armed forces or armed groups, according to War Child.

The Lord's Resistance Army has abducted children, some as young as 12, in the southeast of the country while children also serve with various rebel groups.


The recruitment of child soldiers in Chad has declined sharply since the government signed an action plan to end the practise but thousands of children have served in both government and rebel forces there.


Thousands of children — both boys and girls — have been both forcibly and voluntarily recruited by the two armed opposition groups, the FARC and the ELN, according to a report by Child Soldiers International.

They were used as combatants, to lay mines and explosives and to carry out other military tasks. Girls were subjected to sexual abuse, including rape and forced abortion.

Children are also recruited into successor groups to paramilitaries, says Human Rights Watch.

New recruits ... an armed female child Colombian guerrilla waits with other soldiers while patrolling in the Meta region southeast of Bogota, Colombia in 1998. Picture: AP Source: AP

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

At the height of DRC's war, the UN estimated that more than 30,000 boys and girls were fighting with the government armed forces as well as various rebel forces.

Most have now been released or demobilised, but active recruitment continues in the east of the country due to renewed conflict there, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

The Lord's Resistance Army is known to abduct children in north-eastern Congo where it uses both boys and girls as fighters, and girls as sex slaves.


Armed opposition groups are believed to be responsible for the rampant recruitment of at least 3000 child soldiers to various conflicts across India, according to a report by the Asian Center for Human Rights.

About 500 children are believed to be involved in militant groups in the volatile northern state of Jammu and Kashmir while about 2500 are in the in eastern provinces which are Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas.


Islamic State insurgents in Iraq are using child soldiers in what may amount to systematic war crimes that demand prosecution, according to the United Nations.

But all sides of the conflict reportedly recruit child soldiers — including government-affiliated forces — as fighters, informants, suicide bombers and for manning checkpoints.

HRW says Al-Qaeda also recruits children to spy, scout, transport military supplies, to plant explosive devices and actively participate in attacks against security forces and civilians, including suicide attacks.

During the Iran-Iraq war, child soldiers were often sent out ahead in waves over minefields, says UNICEF.

Being trained ... an Afghan child, age 5, being trained as a Northern Alliance soldier in Afghanistan. Source: News Limited


Children are recruited by rebel forces, including the New People's Army, Abu Sayyaf

Group, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The Philippine army has fabricated stories that children taken into custody are rebel "child warriors," says HRW.


Amnesty International has called the situation in Somalia a "human rights crisis and a children's crisis" due to the scale of war crimes affecting Somali children, including the systematic recruitment of child soldiers under 15 by armed Islamist groups.

Islamist group al-Shabaab forcibly recruits children as young as 10, often abducting them from their homes or schools, coercing some into becoming suicide bombers.

Children also serve in Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces.

South Sudan

The South Sudan government has pledged to end its use of child soldiers, but continues to recruit children and has not yet demobilised all children from its forces.


In Darfur, over a dozen armed forces and groups use child soldiers, including the Sudanese

Armed Forces, pro-government militias, and factions of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army.


Children are recruited in Thailand as part of the armed separatist struggle in its four southern border provinces for various roles including for intelligence gathering, diversion tactics and arson attacks, according to Child Soldiers International.

Boys are also recruited by village defence volunteers (Chor Ror Bor), a government-established civil defence force which forms part of state counterinsurgency forces in the conflict-affected areas.

Joining the war ... a rebel Liberian gunman and child soldier in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2003. Source: News Limited


The government is guilty of recruiting children as young as 14.

Before the Arab Spring, it also used children to fight Huthi rebels in the north, says HRW.

In 2011, rebel forces in Taizz deployed children to patrol roads and operate checkpoints. Some had previously served with government forces before defecting.


Non-state armed groups in Syria have used children as young as 15 to fight in battles, sometimes recruiting them under the guise of offering education, according to a HRW.

Extremist Islamist groups including Islamic State have specifically recruited children through free schooling campaigns that include weapons training. They are then given dangerous jobs including suicide bombing missions.


Islamist armed groups fighting against Malian and French forces in the north of the country have recruited children aged between 10 and 17, according to Amnesty International.

Trained to kill ... a child soldier in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003. Source: News Limited

Sri Lanka

During Sri Lanka's brutal 26-year civil war between the government forces and separatists from the Tamil minority both sides used child soldiers.

Armed groups targeted young people with their propaganda. For example, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) actively indoctrinated children in the school system. If children didn't voluntarily join up they would be forced.

The Philippines

Many children in the Philippines became soldiers as soon as they enter their teens.

A warrior's life seems attractive to many who come from fragmented families and don't attend school due to decades of war, says HRW.


The UN estimates that 2 million children have been killed bearing arms since 1987, and three times that number have been seriously injured or permanently disabled.

Both the government and rebel armies abduct children and force them to fight while some children join willingly out of hunger or desperation.

So young ... a child soldier named Tamba, 9, holding an AK-47 assault rifle. Source: News Limited


In the 1980s many children joined armed groups in Cambodia to secure food and protection.

UNICEF says some rebel groups in Cambodia and Mozambique turned children into fierce warriors by subjecting them to a brief period of terror and physical abuse — 'socialising' them into violence.


About 20,000 children as young as seven joined various fighting factions and were used in combat in 1990. The National Patriotic Front of Liberia had its own 'small boys unit', ranging in age from 6 to 20.

The United Nations Children's Fund believes that currently up to 60 per cent of the armed fighters in Liberia are under the age of 18, and that both government and rebel troops are guilty of recruiting children.

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