Islamic State militants are using mentally handicapped children as suicide bombers and human shields while crucifying and burying others alive, a disturbing new report from a U.N. watchdog has revealed.
The report, published on Wednesday by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), found that children from minority communities, such as Christian and Yazidi, are particularly vulnerable to this kind of brutality.
"We have had reports of children, especially children who are mentally challenged, who have been used as suicide bombers, most probably without them even understanding," expert Renate Winter told Reuters.
"There was a video placed (online) that showed children at a very young age, approximately eight years of age and younger, to be trained already to become child soldiers."
Last year, ISIS overtook large swaths of Syria and Iraq in an attempt to establish a caliphate, or state ruled by Sharia law, throughout the Middle East. Since then, the group has killed thousands of minorities and displaced hundreds of thousands of others.
"It is a huge, huge, huge problem," Ms. Winter said. "We are really deeply concerned at torture and murder of those children, especially those belonging to minorities, but not only from minorities."
The report also acknowledged the "systematic killing of children belonging to religious and ethnic minorities by the so-called Isis, including several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive".
Additionally, the report found that ISIS continues to carry out various forms of sexual violence, including "the abduction and sexual enslavement of children". According to a recent pricing guide released by ISIS, Christian and Yazidi girls aged 1-9 are sold into slavery for less than $200 to fund militant activity.
Last December, Canon Andrew White or "The Vicar of Baghdad" recounted a particularly disturbing occurrence in which ISIS militants beheaded four children, all of whom were under the age of 15, when they refused to say that they would follow the Prophet Muhammad and told the ISIS fighters that they will always "love" and "follow" Jesus.
"ISIS turned up and they said to the children, 'you say the words that you will follow Muhammad.' The Children, all under 15, four of them, they said, 'no, we love Yasua [Jesus]. We have always loved Yasua. We have always followed Yasua. Yasua has always been with us.'" White said. "[The Militants] said, 'say the words!' [The Children] said, 'no, we can't do that.' They chopped all their heads off."
The CRC is currently calling on Iraqi authorities to take all necessary measures to rescue the children taken hostage by ISIS and to prosecute the militants for their crimes. However, the group acknowledged that the government in Baghdad is presently powerless in terms of holding the fighters accountable due to the strength of the terrorist group.
"There is a duty of a state to protect all its children. The point is just how are they going to do that in such a situation?" Winter said.