Dramatic video has emerged of Iraqi police stripping an explosive belt from a child suspected in a suicide bombing attempt for ISIS.
The footage appears to show security personnel restrain a visibly upset boy while they carefully cut the belt from the youth’s torso in Kirkuk. Once the belt has been removed, the boy is scooped up and taken away.
Kurdistan 24, a broadcast news station based out of Irbil, Iraq, aired Sunday’s capture.
Authorities said they believe the 15-year-old came to Kirkuk a week ago from Mosul, ISIS’ most significant stronghold outside Syria.
“He was captured before he reached his destination, which was a Shia mosque,” Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk Governorate, told CNN. “The security guards noticed there was something wrong, especially that there was another suicide attack a bit earlier, and they captured him.”
Karim said the terrorist organization “trained and brainwashed” the boy. “They tell them if they do this, they will go to heaven and have a good time and get everything that they ever wanted,” he said.
The arrest in Kirkuk comes a day after a child bomber is believed to have targeted a Kurdish wedding in Turkey, killing at least 54 people. More than 20 of the victims were children under 14, a Turkish official said Monday.
‘Cubs of the caliphate’
ISIS has a history of exploiting children through propaganda, but more recently it has used them as weapons on the front lines and to target civilians.
The terrorist group maintains an army of child soldiers — stolen from their families and indoctrinated to their cause. These so-called cubs of the caliphate are inducted into ISIS’ campaign of violence through a myriad of grim training practices, with children as young as 8 reconditioned to follow the terror group’s ideology, according to UN reports.
“We have had reports of children, especially children that are mentally challenged, who have been used as suicide bombers, most probably without them even understanding what has happened or what they have to expect,” Renate Winter, an expert with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, told CNN in 2015.
The group is believed to use threats, intimidation and an unrelenting endurance training to break down the children. In some instances, young boys are forced to witness ISIS militants shoot fellow recruits if they stop participating in drills.
ISIS’ deadly recruiting campaign
The jihadi movement is also believed to have seized schools to re-educate and radicalize children to follow the group’s extreme interpretation of Islam.
Human Rights Watch has said that ISIS and other extremist groups “have specifically recruited children through free schooling campaigns that include weapons training and have given them dangerous tasks, including suicide bombing missions.”
These terror tactics involving children have remained a top concern among lawmakers and human rights organizations. The first open source database documenting ISIS child propaganda was launched this year after 13 months of study.
Researchers estimated around 1,500 child soldiers are training and fighting in the terror group’s ranks.
“They are not just being used to shock people in execution videos. They are being used for their operational value as well,” Charlie Winter, the study’s co-author, told CNN in February. “This is something that sadly we have to expect to increase and accelerate as the situation becomes more precarious for ISIS in the years to come.”
ISIS is not the only terror group known to use child soldiers. Reports have emerged of children exploited by Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab in Somalia.