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ISIS Expanding Training Camps, Recruiting Children

Friday, September 23, 2016 11:57
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ISIS  Expanding  Training  Camps,  Recruiting  Children  Afghan  villagers  are  told  that  the  camps  are  for  religious  instruction,  but  witnesses  report  otherwise   B4INREMOTE-aHR0cHM6Ly8zLmJwLmJsb2dzcG90LmNvbS8tVzZYY1psY1V4SkUvVi1WcnRzVWxtVEkvQUFBQUFBQUFRREkvckZJeExkSUFnSjRid0tiNThtVFN0bV85ZkRzN2l0RklnQ0xjQi9zNjQwL0lTSVNfaW1nLTk0NXg1MDAuanBlZw==
A video released in January shows boys and men participating in military-style training exercises. Screengrab from Islamic State group video, Courtesy of AMI

By Sara Carter | Contributor  
Feb. 12, 2016, at 3:41 p.m.

The Islamic State group is preparing more than 500 children for suicide and combat missions against American and other targets in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence and military officials say.

The terrorist organization centered in Iraq and Syria is targeting local government officials and Taliban forces as well as American forces, the officials and local residents told AMI.

The camps and madrassas — Islamic religious schools — were established by the Islamic State group last year in the area of Bandar, in Achin District, in the south of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. 

Initially, the Islamic State group recruited more than 50 children, some as young as 6 years old, but the recruitment efforts have grown dramatically this year. 

Residents said Islamic State group recruiters are paying parents roughly $300 to $500 a month per child. Residents said the Islamists downplay or conceal the suicide and combat training from parents, who are promised religious education for their children. U.S. intelligence officials in the region corroborated those accounts.  The payments would easily more than double the typical monthly salary of family breadwinners in the area, where many locals work as small farmers or day laborers.

U.S. Intelligence officials said the terror group has invested millions in South Asia for recruitment of young children. The cash comes from illegal oil revenue, ransoms, taxation of residents subjugated by the jihadists, money from supporters and sales of antiquities, these officials added.

Residents in Achin District said the Islamic State group madrassas operate under the command of Ahmad Wali, an Afghan national who was once a trainer for the rival Taliban. Wali, who also goes by the alias Mulvi Hamza, “is a famous and good trainer … brainwashing children, preparing young militants for suicide attacks,” a resident with direct knowledge of the Islamic State group camps said.  There is no reason to doubt that these children are being brainwashed and indoctrinated for suicide missions and warfare,” said a U.S. intelligence official familiar with Islamic State group activity in the region. “We’ve seen this in the past with the Taliban and other terror networks operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Islamic extremist group’s Afghan media wing released a video in late January showing 13 boys and young men taking part in military-style training exercises in rocky mountain terrain. The video shows the youths dressed in black with oversize camouflage jackets, brandishing Kalashnikovs.  In the video, a boy holds a microphone and says in Pashto, the language of eastern Afghanistan: “We are training here at the Islamic State center. We learned about jihad and now we will fight against enemies of Islam. We are asking all young people to leave your home and join us and fight in the way of God.

Another young fighter repeats the message in Dari, the other official language of Afghanistan.

Another American intelligence official said such efforts mirror those of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, elsewhere.

“Reports of ISIL’s Khorasan affiliate attempting to indoctrinate Afghan youth would be consistent with the group’s practices in Syria and Iraq,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns. “The group has featured children in a number of its propaganda releases, and ISIL’s dozens of provincial media outlets allow it to tailor propaganda to specific audiences.

Hejrat Khan has a 13-year-old son in one of the schools. The commander of that Islamic State group madrassa is a man from a local village called Mulvi Asim, Khan told AMI, adding that the training camp provides “free food, clothing, shoes and sleeping accommodation” for the children. “We can’t send our children to other areas for religious education,” Khan said, because the region is so poor.

Asked if he worried that his son would be trained as a militant or used as a suicide bomber, Khan expressed confidence in Asim. “How is it possible that they would train our children for suicide missions?” he said. “Mulvi Asim is a nice man and he assured us they are providing only religious education for our children.

But several villagers working in the area painted a much darker picture.  Children at these madrassas are “brainwashed, taught how to use weapons like Kalashnikovs and fight,” said one eyewitness, who asked not to have his name used out of fear of retribution.

Islamic State group documents found in Syria and Pakistan affirm the coordinated effort by the terrorist organization to recruit children for jihad and establish training camps beyond Iraq and Syria, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told AMI during a recent interview in Washington, D.C.

Flynn pointed to a 32-page Islamic State document titled “A Brief History of the Islamic State Caliphate,” explaining it and other documents discovered in Syria show “how incredibly organized the Islamic State is and has been,” Flynn said. “And it also describes how they are developing children to fight. These guys are far more dedicated to their cause than we seem to be in order to stop them.”

Sara A. Carter is a senior reporter for the American Media Institute. Follow her on Twitter: @SaraCarterDCSajid Khan contributed to this report from Afghanistan. Follow him on Twitter @iusajid1.

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