ISIS has released a horrific new video showing child executioners being forced to brutally slaughter a group of more than 25 regime soldiers in the ancient city of Palmyra.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights first reported that the Islamic State group had publicly executed a group of men in the city amphitheater in late May, shortly after the jihadist group captured the area from government forces.
The monitoring group said the men were accused of fighting for the Syrian government, and that local residents were forced to come and watch the mass execution.
Video footage of the slaughter, which was published via ISIS-linked Twitter accounts over the weekend, shows soldiers lined up on their knees on the stage of the Roman amphitheatre while child executioners, all wearing desert camouflage and brown bandanas, stand behind them.
ISIS fighters can be seen standing or sitting on top of the ancient ruins, watching over the crowd as they wait for the execution. A leader speaks to the audience, and on command, the condemned soldiers are killed simultaneously as the child fighters, who appear to be between 12 and 13, shoot them in the head.
As previously reported by the Gospel Herald, ISIS beat back Syrian forces under control of the Assad regime and captured Palmyra in May. During that time, the group carried out more than 200 killings, including of civilians, in and around the city.
Additionally, ISIS has destroyed the region's treasured ancient monuments; on Thursday, the group boasted in a statement that it had destroyed six archaeological artifacts in the city, which is over 2,000 years old and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The jihadist group also frequently uses children - known as 'caliphate cubs' - as suicide bombers, soldiers and executioners in their attempts to establish a caliphate across Iraq and Syria.
In the past several weeks, at least 500 children have been kidnapped from Iraq's Anbar and Diyala provinces and taken to the group's bases, where they are trained for use in "terror attacks", according to Iraqi authorities.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported in late March that ISIS recruited over 400 children to join its military ranks in Syria from Jan. 1 through March 23. While some of the children are recruited with their parents' consent as part of a "military training exercise," several more have been kidnapped without their parents knowing. As earlier noted by the Gospel Herald, the group also encourages children with birth defects to join their ranks, as some believe that these children are used as human shields, blood donors for wounded fighters, and suicide bombers.
"They use children because it is easy to brainwash them," Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory, told Reuters. "They can build these children into what they want. They stop them from going to school and send them to IS schools instead."
The group has also has regularly released videos of its mass killings, showing the gruesome violence in chilling detail that experts say is a key propaganda tool for the group.
"While ISIS likes the shock factor, these executions are chosen to show their compliance with Sharia law," said Ryan Mauro, national security analyst for the New York-based Clarion Project.
"ISIS is acting upon doctrines that say spies and apostates, those who leave Islam, are to be executed. "ISIS will argue that these specific methods are justifiable according to Islam as they see it, and that they are not being barbaric just for the sake of it," he added. "Even its executions are an attempt to portray ISIS as the most legitimate followers of Islam."