Iraq News

ISIS uses children to make last stand in Anbar

By Khalid al-Taie

Teenager "Abu Falah al-Iraqi" poses with a gun before carrying out an October 1st attack in the district of Heet. [Photo circulated on social media]

Teenager "Abu Falah al-Iraqi" poses with a gun before carrying out an October 1st attack in the district of Heet. [Photo circulated on social media]

Iraqi officials in Anbar tell Diyaruna they are concerned that the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has been coercing children who should be in school into making a last stand with its fighting force in the westernmost province.

There have been reports that the group has been pressuring families in areas of western Anbar that remain under its control to hand over their sons to fight.

According to Anbar provincial council member Farhan Mohammed al-Dulaimi, ISIS elements have threatened to kill families in the towns of Rawa and al-Qaim if they do not comply.

"Our information confirms that terrorists are working to recruit at least one child or teenager from each family by force," he told Diyaruna, adding that this effort has picked up pace as the group faces mounting losses.

ISIS has been secretly transporting these youth, many of whom are under the age of 16, to training camps in Syria to prepare them for combat, he said.

During a training programme that can last for up to three months, they are subjected to "intensive brainwashing", receive physical training and learn how to use weapons and manufacture explosives, he said.

Al-Dulaimi expressed his concern over the exploitation of children who "should now be in schools learning to serve and develop their country in the future", describing it as an immediate threat to Anbar and the rest of the country.

Iraqi forces have been working to mitigate this threat, however, he said.

Local government officials in Anbar are consulting with international organisations in order to develop an integrated plan to combat extremist ideology, especially among children and displaced families, al-Dulaimi said.

Teenage attackers

Teenagers carried out many of the recent terrorist attacks in Anbar, provincial council member Naeem al-Koud told Diyaruna.

"A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest was killed by tribes and security forces in al-Kasara in Heet district on October 10th," he said.

It turned out that the suicide bomber was 13 years old, he said.

Families in ISIS-controlled areas are being pressured to hand over one of their sons, he added, and while some comply willingly with this order, most do not.

ISIS instills any ideas it wants in the minds of children via pressure and repetition, al-Koud said.

ISIS is playing its final card with its efforts to exploit children, said Sheikh Ghazi Nafe al-Jughaifi, a leader of the Jaghayfah tribe fighting ISIS in Haditha.

"But it is certainly a losing card," he told Diyaruna.

Iraqi forces, backed by tribal fighters, are determined to expel ISIS from Rawa and al-Qaim -- the last towns in Iraq under the group's control, al-Jughaifi said.

"The residents of these towns know that the time of their salvation from the power of the group is coming soon and will not bow to its pressure," he added.

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