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ISIS Teaching Child Fighters to Behead Prisoners Using Dolls: 'They Told Me It Was Head of Infidels'

( [email protected] ) Jul 20, 2015 02:30 PM EDT
A disturbing new report has revealed the shocking ways ISIS militants train child fighters to carry out acts of terrorism, including teaching them to behead prisoners using dolls.
In propaganda videos released by ISIS, camouflage-clad boys are shown participating in drills, reciting verses from the Koran and undergoing weapons training. AP photo

A disturbing new report has revealed the shocking ways ISIS militants train child fighters to carry out acts of terrorism, including teaching them to behead prisoners using dolls.

More than 120 boys, all kidnapped from the Yazidi religious minority last August, were reportedly shown videos of beheadings and told by ISIS fighters that someday, they would perform such killings.

The children were each given a doll and a sword to cut off its head to practice "technique," one 14-year-old boy named Yahya told The Associated Press last week in northern Iraq, where he fled after escaping the IS training camp.

"Then they taught me how to hold the sword, and they told me how to hit. They told me it was the head of the infidels," the boy told the AP, explaining that he had to chop several times before "cutting it right."

"I was scared when I saw that," he said of the videos showing beheadings. "I knew I wouldn't be able to behead someone like that. Even as an adult."

Yahya, his little brother, their mother and hundreds of Yazidis were captured when IS seized the Iraqi town of Sulagh last year, the AP notes. Many of the older men were murdered while the women and girls were taken to be married or sold as sex slaves.

The boys, however, were taken to Raqqa, where they were placed in an ISIS training camp and given Muslim Arabic names to replace their Kurdish names. While in the camps, the boys, all 8-15 years old, were forced to convert to Islam and brainwashed into becoming jihadi fighters.

In the training camps, the boys, dubbed "Cubs of the Caliphate," were made to train eight to 10 hours a day. Training included extensive Quranic studies, exercises, and weapon drills, including learning how to shoot someone from close range.

At one time, Yahya was forced to punch his 10-year-old brother as part of an "exercise," knocking out a tooth

The trainer "said if I didn't do it, he'd shoot me," Yahya said. "They ... told us it would make us tougher. They beat us everywhere."

Yahya escaped in early March while the ISIS fighters had left camp to carry out an attack. While the remaining guards slept, he and his brother slipped away and currently reside in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Dohuk with their uncle.

According to a report from the United Nations, ISIS is believed to have recruited more than 1,100 child soldiers since the beginning of this year. Like Yahya, many of the children have been kidnapped from various parts in the region and forced into training camps; however, some are recruited with their parents' consent as part of a "military training exercise."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Wednesday that over 50 child soldiers recruited by the Islamic State group in Syria have died this year. All of the children were under 16 years old, the report noted.

"When a child reaches the point of becoming a suicide bomber, this means that he's been completely brainwashed," Abdel Rahman told AFP. 

Earlier in July, the group released a lengthy video of children carrying out a mass execution of 25 men accused of being soldiers for the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The killings took place inside a Roman amphitheater in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, with child ISIS soldiers filmed standing behind kneeling prisoners.

A separate propaganda video shared later in July showed a child soldier killing several prisoners by shooting them in the head as they begged for their lives at an Iraqi river.

Steve Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, told the MailOnline that "indoctrinating kids with ISIS' fanaticism is not only the easiest population to indoctrinate but also produces new generations of ISIS believers and ultimately, at some point, fighters. This is the way you build a Caliphate."

He continued: "Their goal is to rebuild the Islamic societies they have conquered into a global comprehensive Islamist system that takes over all aspects of society, from garbage collection to teaching at the Madrassas [religious schools]."