Kurdish authorities from the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq reported on Jan. 13 that up to 400 children are being held captive and potentially trained to be suicide bombers by ISIS.
Around 600 children from the country’s Yazidi minority were kidnapped by ISIS, which maintains control of key cities such as Mosul in northern Iraq. Around 200 managed to escape.
That leaves the remainder in the hands of the terrorist group, which may be using them as soldiers in an effort to bolster its ranks following heavy losses in the city of Ramadi, which was recaptured by international coalition forces in December.
Other children may be forced to train as suicide bombers, according to CNN. A 12-year-old boy who escaped ISIS, called “Nasir” for his own protection, told the news outlet that he and 60 others were indoctrinated against Americans, Yazidis and anyone standing in the way of the group’s victory.
"When they were training us they would tell us our parents were unbelievers and that our first job was to go back to kill them,” Nasir said. The youngest child taken by ISIS was 5 years old. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that since October, there have been 29 suicide attacks carried out by children in Syria, according to The Independent.
ISIS has led a campaign of extermination and genocide against Iraq’s Yazidi minority, which the group considers devil-worshippers, since it first gained power in Iraq.
In August 2014, ISIS seized the town of Sinjar from Kurdish peshmerga forces that had been defending northern Iraq from the group’s advance. At that time, 200,000 Yazidis fled the area, and 40,000 took shelter on Mount Sinjar, where they were stranded for days with no food or water before U.S. airstrikes helped them escape. Hundreds of Yazidis were executed by ISIS, and thousands of women were taken captive.
ISIS maintains control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria despite a strong military response from the international community, including airstrikes and advisers sent to train the Iraqi Kurdish and Syrian rebel forces.