A teenage would-be suicide bomber was captured in August by Iraqi police on his way to bomb a sports venue. Now, he is speaking out from his detention center about how ISIS trains children to be soldiers.
15-year-old Mahmoud Ahmed, who was captured after he got cold feet at a sporting event he was sent to bomb when he saw children in the stadium, told Sky News that he was inundated 24 hours a day with Islamic State propaganda to train and desensitize him. Faith Wire reports:
“They taught us how to use a Kalashnikov and a PKC machine gun and then transferred us to Hawija. There were four older men who would teach us about heaven and stuff like that,” Ahmed told the outlet. “Twenty-four hours a day they’d teach us about this stuff.”
Ahmed also noted that in addition to near-ubiquitous Islamist preaching, the young trainees were shown videos of beheadings to frighten them into cooperation.
The teenager currently sits in a juvenile center on charges of terrorism for the failed suicide bombing attempt in August of 2016. He says he had tried to back out of the bombing when he saw the children, but his handlers convinced him to turn around and carry out his mission. That’s when he was caught.
He spoke to Sky News last week about how he was indoctrinated along with about 60 other young recruits, many of them forced into conscription by family members who are loyal to the Islamic State.
Ahmed’s capture in August prompted USA Today to publish a piece at the time on young ISIS recruits and how the terror group proudly used children to carry out some of its deadly attacks.
“Most terror groups find it difficult to rationalize or explain child recruitment,” said John Horgan, a researcher at the Georgia State University who is co-writing a book on the subject. “The Islamic State is one of the few groups that is very proud to announce to the world, not only are they doing it, but it’s also the future.”
USA Today detailed the phases ISIS uses to recruit young terrorists, beginning with a gentle introduction involving toys and ice cream, to eventual participation in beheadings, to military training away from home, and finally training the new recruits to specialize.
Horgan views the children manipulated into the Islamic State as victims, but said once they commit an act of terror, that view changes in the eyes of the world. “Today’s victims are tomorrow’s terrorists, and no one will view them as victims anymore,” he said.
According to USA Today, the United Nations estimates that 362 children were recruited to fight in Syria as of April 2016, with 274 of those recruited by the Islamic State.