As the exploitation of youth by armed groups remains extensive in countries affected by violent extremism, even though it is a war crime for any armed group to recruit or use children under the age of 15. At least 58 non-state armed groups in 15 countries are recruiting and using children for terrorism, according to a new report.
As per a report in Islam Khabar, counter-terrorism agencies in the US and Europe are urgently addressing the vulnerability of youth to terrorist recruitment in Africa and Asia.
"ISIS's ability to recruit young people was unprecedented, with youth fighters identified from at least 34 countries," reports issued by counter-terrorism agencies revealed to Islam Khabar.
Jessica Trisko Darden, a terrorism expert said in a paper published in the American Enterprise Institute focusing on how governments' understanding of "how young people enter into violent extremist groups should inform our approaches to countering and preventing youth involvement in terrorism".
The paper titled 'Tackling Terrorists' Exploitation of Youth', throws light on anti-radicalisation approaches governments need to engage in to tackle the growing threat.
Darden in her paper described two ways in which the indirect recruiting of children is undertaken. First, "many young people are recruited by sympathetic family members or are led to believe that membership helps defend their families or communities". Second, "others are duped, trafficked, kidnapped, or forcibly recruited".
In Africa, since 1987, the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda has kidnapped more than 20,000 children, the report said, adding, "Boko Haram has employed mass kidnappings in Nigeria, including the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok in April 2014 and 110 more girls from a school in Dapchi in March 2018," reported Islam Khabar.
While in Asia, as ISIS expanded in Iraq, its members kidnapped thousands of children from orphanages, schools, and even their families' homes. "Children under the age of 14 reportedly made up over one-third of the 6,800 Yazidis that ISIS abducted in Sinjar in 2014. A further 800 to 900 children were reportedly kidnapped from Mosul for religious and military training," the report said adding that the kidnappings are still going on.
The counter-terrorism agencies report further revealed: "More than 730 infants were born in ISIS-controlled territory to foreign terrorist fighters between April 2013 and June 2018. Some estimates place the total number of children born in territory controlled by ISIS as high as 5,000."
"Around 40,000 foreign ISIS members identified in Iraq and Syria, 12 per cent were children under the age of 18" while at least 4,640 foreign minors have been identified as ISIS affiliates, as per the report cited by Islam Khabar.
The report reveals the strategy of ISIS about the use of young boys, saying "boys may be treated as more expendable by terrorist groups and used as human shields to spare fully trained, adult fighters".
It says: "Boys have featured extensively in ISIS propaganda, with their last will and testament videos disseminated as propaganda. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has used abducted children–primarily boys–to plant improvised explosive devices and carry out suicide bombings."
It comes up with criteria to use "in weighing individuals' vulnerability to radicalization and recruitment and in designing and targeting programs to counter violent extremism", according to Islam Khabar. (ANI)