Newly published data indicates the Islamic State employs more children for combat missions in the Middle East than previously thought.
A report by the Combatting Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. published research by Georgia State University investigators who monitored IS propaganda, eulogies and press releases for 13 months. The report concludes 89 boys ages 8 to 18 died for the militant group between January 2015 and January 2016. Suicide car bombings in Syria and Iraq accounted for 39 percent of the deaths.
The report,”Depictions of Children and Youth in the Islamic State’s Martyrdom Propaganda, 2015-2016″ said IS use of child soldiers is increasing.
“On a month-by-month basis, the rate of young people dying in suicide operations rose, from six in January 2015 to 11 in January 2016,” the report said. “The rate of operations involving one or more child or youth is likewise increasing; there were three times as many suicide operations involving children and youth in January 2016.”
The study also points out children are fighting alongside adults, and are not a part of a “last stand,” typical of combat situations in which children are pressed into military service as a last resort because of a shortage of manpower.
“The use of children and youth has been normalized under the Islamic State’s rule,” the report says. “Instead of hailing them as young heroes, the Islamic State media team merely celebrates them as heroes…They are not engaging in roles in which they have a comparative advantage over the adults. On the contrary, in most cases, children and youth are dying in the same circumstances as adults.”