After ghastly videos released by the Islamic State showing children going through jihadist training and carrying out executions, the alliance driving to retake the city of Raqqa released its own video of kids captured in battle.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a 40,000-strong U.S.-backed group of fighters including Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and Armenians, launched operation Wrath of Euphrates at the beginning of November.
Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for U.S. operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, told reporters from Baghdad this week that the SDF and the Syrian Arab Coalition have liberated nearly 2,000 square miles of territory in their push toward the caliphate’s capital.
“They’ve cleared the entire area east of the Euphrates and northwest of Raqqa, displaying tactical skill by switching back and forth between the northern and western advancements — axes of advance to keep ISIL guessing and on the back foot,” Dorrian said. “Now they’re facing the stiffest resistance thus far, about five kilometers north of [Tabaqah Dam].”
In the SDF video released Wednesday, troops encounter gunfire in a rural area of buildings next to an orchard. Three young teen boys, dressed in military garb and armed, are ordered to lay down on the ground.
The SDF soldiers then order the boys to peel off their outer clothing to show that they aren’t strapped with any explosive devices.
The boys are handcuffed and led away as the soldiers clear the boys’ cache of weapons and equipment. They reportedly told the SDF fighters that they were kidnapped by ISIS and forced to fight. ISIS is also relying on the child soldiers as human shields as the SDF advances.
These child soldiers were reportedly turned back over to relatives.
In an end-of-the-year video, the Islamic State showed pre-teens hunting down and killing bound prisoners in an abandoned building.
In an even more gory follow-up released this month out of ISIS’ Khayr province in Syria, ISIS showed children as young as preschool age murdering prisoners tied to broken carnival rides.
Like previous ISIS videos featuring children, the video argues that coalition bombing is a reason for kids to join jihad and kill Americans.
The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights warned in November that some 400,000 kids in Mosul had been subjected to ISIS brainwashing, with two years of modified school syllabuses to “force hatred onto them and oblige them to join it.” The commission called on the United Nations to find “effective solutions to rehabilitate those children.”