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‘Pride and jihad’ IS issues latest recruitment call to children

The Islamic State group has launched another recruitment campaign aimed at teenagers in Iraqi provinces
Fighters from the Islamic State group load a van with parts that they claim was a US drone that crashed in Raqqa on 23 September, 2014 (AFP)

Local sources in the provinces of Anbar and Ninevah in western and northern Iraq confirmed on Friday that the Islamic State has launched its biggest recruitment operation since 2012, focusing on children aged as young as 13.

Ibrahim al-Hassan, the deputy head of the tribes of the Nineveh Provincial Council, told the news website al-Araby al-Jadeed that the campaign, called “Pride and Jihad” was launched on Friday and had already attracted hundreds of teenagers.

Hassan is worried that the youths will be trained according to what IS considers as the correct Islamic Sharia law before initiating them into military training camps. He added that IS had distributed clothes and gifts to children, and that none of their parents dared to object or prevent their children from going.

This latest scheme from IS will have serious consequences as thousands of children in other Iraqi cities might be tempted to join their ranks, Hassan said. 

Hassan also warned that the children will be brainwashed into undertaking suicide operations or becoming part of sleeper cells in a later stage.

“The Islamic State is using all of its cards,” Hassan said. “They are telling their followers that the year 2015, in the face of their resilience to the overall attacks against the organisation, will be the beginning of the international recognition of the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria.”

Speaking to the same website, Ahmed Gazi, an  expert on Iraqi security affairs, said that the Islamic State resorting to recruiting new elements is testimony to the fact that the percentage of conscription has been “reduced by half due to the high number of human lives killed recently due to the strikes by the international coalition on IS”.

Gazi attributed the decrease of IS’s popularity to the organisation’s attacks on the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in addition to fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's arm in Syria.

This isn’t the first time IS has recruited children to its own ranks. The Syrian Human Rights Committee estimated in August 2014, said that there are as many as 800 youths under the age of 18 had been trained in IS camps, with the majority assigned to guarding checkpoints and patrols or assisting older fighters in a logistical way.  

However, a report by the International Business Times quoted an activist from the IS-controlled city of Raqqa in Syria as saying that these young fighters were increasingly being pushed to the front lines.

“There are at least five known IS youth training camps across Raqqa,” the activist, who goes by the name Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, said. “When camp commanders, known as ‘emirs’ are not needed in battle elsewhere in Iraq and Syria, they lead child recruits through a preliminary 45-day ‘legitimacy training’ followed by three months of intense ‘war courses’.”

IS is known to have modified several popular video games such as Grand Theft Auto in a bid to boost its popularity and as a way to recruit more people. Players target modified characters that are modelled after Westerners, the Iraqi army, and soldiers from the coalition against IS.