ISIS-affiliated accounts on social media confirmed claims that the group is training child soldiers on Wednesday, after a video began circulating on Twitter showing children in ISIS garb being trained for combat, beaten by their instructor and taught how to shoot.
A self-professed ISIS fighter known as Qa'qa al-Baritani who claims to currently be in Raqqa, having travelled from Britain to fight with the Islamic State writing on Wednesday “Yes, Dawlatul-Islāmiyyah (Islamic State) is training children. Watch and learn. ;)”
“We are the army of the Khilāfah and our opposition is the camp of disbelief. Where do you stand in this war? There is no camp in-between,” he added.
The video features footage of boys around the age of ten lined up to receive “training” from their instructor who delivers a series of punches and kicks to each pupil, as well as breaking sticks over their heads, forcing them to assume the press up position and kicking them in the stomach.
The video, entitled the Blood of Jihad 2 is one of the more striking examples of ISIS’s indoctrination campaign, according to Charlie Winter, researcher for anti-radicalisation thinktank the Quilliam Foundation.
“Islamic State and ISIS before it have shown they have kids in ideological camps before and there has been evidence that this has included military training. However I have never seen footage like kids being kicked in the stomach by their instructors [before],” Winter says.
#IslamicState #Damascus PIO offers [Report] for camp "Cubs of Caliphate" http://t.co/QpRcV1Jq4Y pic.twitter.com/aSVYvQ2bzG
— » Jihad News « (@FlamesOfWar1) December 6, 2014
According to Winter, ISIS’s open admission of training child soldiers could partly be a diversion tactic to put focus on children’s rights abuses and divert attention from more strategically important ISIS camps where adult fighters are trained.
“They talk about child soldiers with pride in the Islamic State. They know it will outrage Westerners,” Winter says.
“Another important aspect of releasing footage like this is that ISIS are saying ‘look at how powerful we are. we are able to start our indoctrination at a young age!’”
“It plays into the whole pseudo state image they are trying to promote. They are saying they have an administration. They are trying to show that the Islamic State is going to be around for a while.”
On Saturday ISIS social media accounts put up a total of six photographs showing children armed and equipped for combat, called the ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’.
Meanwhile ISIS’s online propaganda strategy has been criticised by the leader of the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda, an Islamist group ISIS has an ambiguous relationship with.
Nasr bin Ali al-Ansi issued footage of a 43-minute interview today where he took issue particularly with ISIS’s method of gaining publicity by beheading captives.
This seems to be a change of heart after the group released a video showing the beheading of British-American photographer Luke Somers at the weekend.
“No doubt, some of our brothers were affected by seeing scenes of beheadings that were spread recently. We do not accept and we strongly reject them,” al-Ansi said.