On Sunday, a Kurdish news outlet aired a terrifying video that proves how far terror groups will go to maintain their reign. The video shows Iraqi police tearing the t-shirt of a tearful 15-year-old Kirkuk boy, revealing a suicide bomb strapped to his chest.
Moments before the encounter, the boy appeared emotional – erratically pacing up and down the street where the attack was thwarted, according to The Washington Post.
Just one day before in neighboring Turkey, a teen suicide bomber between the ages of 12-14 detonated a bomb strapped to his chest near a wedding celebration, killing 51 people. More than half of the casualties were fellow children, according to Reuters.
In Africa, the tactic of using child suicide bombers is significantly increasing, as Boko Haram’s hold in Nigeria continues to loosen. Boko Haram doesn’t discriminate due to sex; it uses young girls and boys to carry out suicide missions. According to a report released by UNICEF in April, two-thirds of all child attackers surveyed were girls.
In the same report, UNICEF said attacks involving child suicide bombers between 2014 and 2016 increased four-fold in northeastern Nigeria, Boko Haram’s base, and also reached areas of Cameroon, Niger, and Chad.
Boko Haram’s reign is harrowing; 1.3 million African children have been forced from their homes across Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and Niger due to the surge of violence, UNICEF reports.
ISIS now joins Boko Haram in a tactic also used by the Taliban and al-Qaeda: employing young children for the sake of war. ISIS calls the child attackers “Cubs of the Caliphate.”
Like Boko Haram, ISIS has lost many of its adult fighters. A two-year air strike campaign enacted by the U.S. and coalition allies estimates the strikes have killed 45,000 Islamic State militants. To fill the space, ISIS began using children.
“Who would suspect a child?” Kirkuk Gov. Najmiddin Karim said in an interview with the Post. “Sadly, they are brainwashed.”
In its early stages, ISIS set up family oriented events in war-ravaged Syria, including street fairs with ice-cream competitions and games. As the organization grew, so did its hold on the youth. The group began opening schools and training camps to instill its doctrine.
For ISIS, employing children allows them access to highly sensitive areas. Children present an unassuming presence and are left alone to roam freely.
According to The Post, a lack of education also contributes to ISIS’s ability to infiltrate. Most of the children are stripped of schooling, playing into a larger theme of socio-economic deprivation.