ISIS group recruits, exploits children

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BEIRUT (AP) - Teenagers carrying weapons stand at checkpoints and busy intersections in Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul. Patched onto the left arms of their black uniforms are the logos of the Islamic Police.

In Raqqa, the Islamic State group's de facto capital in Syria, boys attend training camp and religious courses before heading off to fight. Others serve as cooks or guards at the extremists' headquarters or as spies, informing on people in their neighborhoods.

Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle and committing abuses against the most vulnerable at a young age, according to a growing body of evidence assembled from residents, activists, independent experts and human rights groups.

In the northern Syrian town of Kobani, where ethnic Kurds have been resisting an IS onslaught for weeks, several activists told The Associated Press they observed children fighting alongside the militants. Mustafa Bali, a Kobani-based activist, said he saw the bodies of four boys, two of them younger than 14. And at least one 18 year old is said to have carried out a suicide attack.

In Syria's Aleppo province, an activist affiliated with the rebel Free Syrian Army said its fighters encountered children in their late teens "fairly often" in battles against the rival Islamic State group.

It is difficult to determine just how widespread the exploitation of children is in the closed world of IS-controlled territory. There are no reliable figures on the number of minors the group employs.

However, a video posted on militant websites Monday offered the most substantive evidence to date that the militant group enlists children. It purportedly highlights the so-called "Cubs of the Caliphate" class, showing young children dressed in black training to use different weapons, responding to staged ambushes and learning to manufacture explosives. The video corresponded with AP reporting.

But a United Nations panel investigating war crimes in the Syrian conflict concluded that in its enlistment of children for active combat roles, the Islamic State group is perpetrating abuses and war crimes on a massive scale "in a systematic and organized manner."

The group "prioritizes children as a vehicle for ensuring long-term loyalty, adherence to their ideology and a cadre of devoted fighters that will see violence as a way of life," it said in a recent report. The panel of experts, known as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, conducted more than 300 interviews with people who fled or are living in IS-controlled areas, and examined video and photographic evidence.

The use of children by armed groups in conflict is, of course, nothing new. In the Syrian civil war, the Free Syrian Army and Nusra Front rebel groups also recruit children for combat, said Leila Zerrougui, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for children and armed conflict.

But no other group comes close to IS in using children in such a systematic and organized way. And the effect is that much greater because IS commands large areas in which the militants inculcate the children with their radical and violent interpretation of Shariah law.

"What is new is that ISIS seems to be quite transparent and vocal about their intention and their practice of recruiting children," said Laurent Chapuis, UNICEF regional child protection adviser for the Middle East and North Africa, using an alternate acronym for the group. "Children as young as 10, 12 years old are being used in a variety of roles, as combatants as messengers, spies, guards, manning checkpoints but also for domestic purposes like cooking, cleaning, sometimes providing medical care to the wounded."

"This is not a marginal phenomenon. This is something that is being observed and seems to be part of the strategy of the group," Zerrougui said in a phone interview from New York.

She said some children join voluntarily for various reasons but others are targeted.

"They are abducting children and forcing them to join, they are brainwashing children and indoctrinating them to join their group. All the tools used to attract and recruit children are used by this group," she said, adding that children as young as 9 or 10 are used for "various roles."

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ISIS group recruits, exploits children
CF-18 Hornets fly in formation on their the departure for Operation IMPACT, in Cold Lake, Alberta on Tuesday October 21, 2014. The Canadian CF-18 Hornets are making their way to Kuwait, to join the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
A group that claims to represent ISIS -- called Islamic State Hacking Division -- posted the list online as a "hit list" for lone-wolf terrorists.
Military personnel guide a CF-18 Hornet into position at the CFB Cold Lake, in Cold Lake, Alberta on Tuesday October 21, 2014. The Canadian CF-18 Hornets are making their way to Kuwait, to join the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
A Canadian CF-18 gets the go-ahead for takeoff at dusk at the military base in Dohar, Qatar on December 3, 1990. Defence Minister Rob Nicholson says an advance military team will leave Trenton, Ont., for Kuwait next week as Canada gears up to join the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
CF-18 Hornets fly in formation on their the departure for Operation IMPACT, in Cold Lake, Alberta on Tuesday October 21, 2014. The Canadian CF-18 Hornets are making their way to Kuwait, to join the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

A video purporting to show a mass beheading of Coptic Christian hostages was released Sunday, February 15, 2015 by militants affiliated to the ISIS terrorists.

Video provided by: Al Hayat
Survivors of Islamic State Video Speak Out

A video purporting to show a mass beheading of Coptic Christian hostages was released Sunday, February 15, 2015 by militants affiliated to the ISIS terrorists.

Video provided by: Al Hayat

A video purporting to show a mass beheading of Coptic Christian hostages was released Sunday, February 15, 2015 by militants affiliated to the ISIS terrorists.

Video provided by: Al Hayat

RAQQA, SYRIA - NOVEMBER 28: At least 5 people killed and cars,buildings destroyed during the air strikes by Syrian army warplanes on the ISIL-held northern city of Raqqa, Syria on November 28,2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - JANUARY 16: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, near Turkish-Syrian border crossing shows smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets on January 16, 2015. (Photo by Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 09: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets on November 09, 2014. (Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 09: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets on November 09, 2014. (Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 9: Smoke rising during the clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) members and armed groups in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), is seen from Suruc district of Turkey's Sanliurfa on November 9, 2014. (Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 30 : A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, near Turkish-Syrian border crossing shows smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets on October 30, 2014. (Photo by Rauf Maltas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 30 : A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, near Turkish-Syrian border crossing shows smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets on October 30, 2014. (Photo by Rauf Maltas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 30 : A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, near Turkish-Syrian border crossing shows smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets on October 30, 2014. (Photo by Rauf Maltas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - JULY 5 : An image grab taken from a video released on July 5, 2014 by Al-Furqan Media shows alleged Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi preaching during Friday prayer at a mosque in Mosul.(Photo by Al-Furqan Media/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - JULY 5 : An image grab taken from a video released on July 5, 2014 by Al-Furqan Media shows alleged Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi preaching during Friday prayer at a mosque in Mosul.(Photo by Al-Furqan Media/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 30: Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga military convoy, carrying heavy weapons belonging to Peshmerga forces, arrives in Suruc town, near the Syrian border, on their way to Syria to help defend the Syrian town of Kobani against ISIL militants on October 30, 2014 in Sanliurfa, Turkey. Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government has sent its forces to fight alongside the armed groups against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) within a special arrangement with Turkey. (Photo by Rauf Maltas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 30: Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga military convoy, carrying heavy weapons belonging to Peshmerga forces, arrives in Suruc town, near the Syrian border, on their way to Syria to help defend the Syrian town of Kobani against ISIL militants on October 30, 2014 in Sanliurfa, Turkey. Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government has sent its forces to fight alongside the armed groups against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) within a special arrangement with Turkey. (Photo by Rauf Maltas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SIRNAK, TURKEY - OCTOBER 29: People welcome Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces' military convoy, carrying heavy weapons as it crosses into Turkey from the Habur border crossing in Sirnak province of Turkey, on October 29, 2014. Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government has sent its forces to fight alongside the armed groups against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) within a special arrangement with Turkey. (Photo by Ahmet Bolat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: A photo taken from the Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows that smoke rises after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carried out a suicide attack with two bomb-laden vehicles in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), Syria, on October 20, 2014. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SIRNAK, TURKEY - OCTOBER 29: A boy, holding Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government, flashes V sign as people welcome Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces' military convoy, carrying heavy weapons as it crosses into Turkey from the Habur border crossing in Sirnak province of Turkey, on October 29, 2014. Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government has sent its forces to fight alongside the armed groups against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) within a special arrangement with Turkey. (Photo by Ahmet Bolat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: (TURKEY OUT) An explosion rocks Syrian city of Kobane during a reported suicide car bomb attack by the militants of Islamic State (ISIS) group on a People's Protection Unit (YPG) position in the city center of Kobani, as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, October 20, 2014 in Sanliurfa province, Turkey. According to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey will reportedly allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the Syrian border to fight Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian city of Kobane while the United States has sent planes to drop weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Syrian Kurdish fighters around Kobane. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) shakes hands with Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi (R) at Cankaya Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, on October 20, 2014. (Pool/Presidency/Yasin Bulbul/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) meets Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi (L 4) at Cankaya Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, on October 20, 2014. (Pool/Presidency/Yasin Bulbul/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: (TURKEY OUT) An explosion rocks Syrian city of Kobane during a reported suicide car bomb attack by the militants of Islamic State (ISIS) group on a People's Protection Unit (YPG) position in the city center of Kobani, as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, October 20, 2014 in Sanliurfa province, Turkey. According to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey will reportedly allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the Syrian border to fight Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian city of Kobane while the United States has sent planes to drop weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Syrian Kurdish fighters around Kobane. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: A photo taken from the Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows that smoke rises after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carried out a suicide attack with two bomb-laden vehicles in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), Syria, on October 20, 2014. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Smoke and flames rise following an explosion in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, as seen from the southeastern Turkish village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 20, 2014. Turkey dropped its refusal to allow Kurdish fighters over the border to defend the besieged Syrian town of Kobane, saying it was now helping Iraqi peshmerga to cross the frontier in a major policy shift. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke and flames rise following an explosion in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, as seen from the southeastern Turkish village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 20, 2014. Turkey dropped its refusal to allow Kurdish fighters over the border to defend the besieged Syrian town of Kobane, saying it was now helping Iraqi peshmerga to cross the frontier in a major policy shift. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: (TURKEY OUT) An explosion rocks Syrian city of Kobane during a reported suicide car bomb attack by the militants of Islamic State (ISIS) group on a People's Protection Unit (YPG) position in the city center of Kobani, as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, October 20, 2014 in Sanliurfa province, Turkey. According to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey will reportedly allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the Syrian border to fight Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian city of Kobane while the United States has sent planes to drop weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Syrian Kurdish fighters around Kobane. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: People watch the clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed group near the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey on October 20, 2014. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: People watch the clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed group near the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey on October 20, 2014. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed groups on October 20, 2014. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Kurdish people observe smoke rising from the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, following an explosion as seen from the southeastern Turkish village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 20, 2014. US President Barack Obama called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and they pledged to step up the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, the White House said. Kurdish fighters have been under IS assault for more than a month around Kobane, which has become a key prize as it is being fought under the gaze of the world's press massed just over the border in Turkey. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: People watch the clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed group near the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey on October 20, 2014. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Flames rise following an explosion in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, as seen from the southeastern Turkish village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 20, 2014. US President Barack Obama called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and they pledged to step up the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, the White House said. Kurdish fighters have been under IS assault for more than a month around Kobane, which has become a key prize as it is being fought under the gaze of the world's press massed just over the border in Turkey. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Weapons system video of U.S. airstrike against an ISIL compound northwest of Ar Raqqah, Syria, Sept. 23, 2014.
ISIL storage facility near Abu Kamal, Syria, struck by U.S. strike aircraft Sept. 23, 2014.
ISIL vehicle staging near Abu Kamal, Syria, struck by U.S. strike aircraft Sept. 23, 2014.
NVG footage of U.S. F-16's getting fuel from a U.S. KC-135 Stratotanker, Sept. 23, 2014, during air strikes against ISIL in Syria.
U.S. airstrike on Jeribe West Modular Refinery, Syria, Sept. 24, 2014. The United States conducted this strike as part of the President’s comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. Going forward, the U.S. military will continue to conduct targeted airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq as local forces go on the offensive against this terrorist group.
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 18: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows flames rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets on October 18, 2014. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 18: (TURKEY OUT) People are silhouetted on the top of a hill close to the border line between Turkey and Syria near Mursitpinar bordergate as they watch the U.S led airstrikes over the Syrian town of Kobani on October 18, 2014 in Sanliurfa, Turkey. Kurdish fighters in Syrian city of Kobani have pushed back Islamic State militants in a number of locations as U.S. airstrikes on ISIS positions continue in and around the city. Since mid-September more than 200,000 people from Kobani flee into Turkey. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
GAZIANTEP, TURKEY - OCTOBER 18: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows flames and smoke rising from an explosion in the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following a US-led coalition airstrike hits an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) target on October 18, 2014. (Photo by Omer Urer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GAZIANTEP, TURKEY - OCTOBER 18: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows flames and smoke rising from an explosion in the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following a US-led coalition airstrike hits an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) target on October 18, 2014. (Photo by Omer Urer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 18: (TURKEY OUT) Heavy smoke rises following an airstrike by the US-led coalition aircraft in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, October 18, 2014. Kurdish fighters in Syrian city of Kobani have pushed back Islamic State militants in a number of locations as U.S. airstrikes on ISIS positions continue in and around the city. Since mid-September more than 200,000 people from Kobani flee into Turkey. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 18: (TURKEY OUT) An explosion rocks the Syrian city of Kobani during an airstrike by the US-led coalition during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, October 18, 2014. Kurdish fighters in Syrian city of Kobani have pushed back Islamic State militants in a number of locations as U.S. airstrikes on ISIS positions continue in and around the city. Since mid-September more than 200,000 people from Kobani flee into Turkey. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
Flames rise from an explosion in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, after a US-led coalition strike, as seen from the Turkish border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on October 18, 2014. Turkey is turning a deaf ear to insistent pressure to take a more pro-active stance in the fight against Islamic State (IS) jihadists, adding to existing strains with the West under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Western diplomats have repeatedly made clear they want to see the key NATO member play a key role in the coalition against the militants, who are battling for the Syrian town Kobane just a few kilometers from Turkey. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A Kurdish man stands next to another looking through binoculars towards the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 15, 2014. US-led aircraft will continue bombing near the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) and in western Iraq, President Barack Obama said after talks with military leaders from an international coalition fighting the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 14: Turkish security forcers members stand guard the gate while the wounded Syrian Kurds are carried to the Turkish side of boder in Mursitpinar crossing in Turkey's Sanliurfa province on October 14, 2014, as the clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed troops continue in Kobane (Ayn al-arab) city of Syria. (Photo by Omer Urer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 14: (TURKEY OUT) Abandoned houses in the Syrian city of Kobani after fighting between Syrian Kurds and militants from Islamic State, on October 14, 2014 as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border. The strategic border town of Kobani has been beseiged by Islamic State militants since mid-September forcing more than 200,000 people to flee into Turkey. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 9: A photograph taken from the border line in Suruc district of Sanliurfa, southeastern province of Turkey, shows smoke rises during the clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed groups in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) city of Syria on October 9, 2014. (Photo by Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 9: A photograph taken from the border line in Suruc district of Sanliurfa, southeastern province of Turkey, shows militants of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as they are walking in the town of Kobani during the clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed groups continue in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) city of Syria on October 9, 2014. (Photo by Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 9: A photograph taken from the border line in Suruc district of Sanliurfa, southeastern province of Turkey, shows smoke rises during the clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed groups in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) city of Syria on October 9, 2014. (Photo by Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 9: A photograph taken from the border line in Suruc district of Sanliurfa, southeastern province of Turkey, shows destroyed buildings and rising smoke as a result of clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed groups in Kobane (Ayn al-Arab) city of Syria on October 9, 2014. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the southwest of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, following air strikes as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, on October 7, 2014. Fresh air strikes by the US-led coalition hit positions held by Islamic State jihadists in the southwest of the key Syrian border town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane), according to an AFP journalist just across the border in Turkey. The strikes came a day after the extremists pushed into Kobane, seizing three districts in the city's east after fierce street battles with its Kurdish defenders. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Alleged Islamic State (IS) militants stand next to a black IS flag atop a hill in at the eastern part of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, on October 7, 2014. Fresh air strikes by the US-led coalition hit positions held by Islamic State jihadists in the southwest of the key Syrian border town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane), according to an AFP journalist just across the border in Turkey. The strikes came a day after the extremists pushed into Kobane, seizing three districts in the city's east after fierce street battles with its Kurdish defenders. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the southwest of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, following air strikes as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, on October 7, 2014. Fresh air strikes by the US-led coalition hit positions held by Islamic State jihadists in the southwest of the key Syrian border town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane), according to an AFP journalist just across the border in Turkey. The strikes came a day after the extremists pushed into Kobane, seizing three districts in the city's east after fierce street battles with its Kurdish defenders. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the southwest of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, following air strikes as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, on October 7, 2014. Fresh air strikes by the US-led coalition hit positions held by Islamic State jihadists in the southwest of the key Syrian border town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane), according to an AFP journalist just across the border in Turkey. The strikes came a day after the extremists pushed into Kobane, seizing three districts in the city's east after fierce street battles with its Kurdish defenders. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 07: A photo taken from the Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey shows smoke rises from Ayn al-Arab city (Kobani) of Syria after the US-led coalition bombed the targets of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Ayn al-Arab, on October 7, 2014. (Photo by Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Islamic State (IS) flag is placed on a hill in the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, on October 6, 2014. Two flags of Islamic State (IS) jihadists seeking to take the Syrian town of Kobane were flying on the eastern side of the town, an AFP photographer reported. The flags, black with the Arabic lettering of the group, were seen by the photographer from the Turkish side of the border. One flew on a building while another larger flag was planted on a hill. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 6 : Turkish Armed Forces soldiers are seen on the hills at the Turkey - Syria boder in Sanliurfa, Turkey as the clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed groups continue in Ayn al-Arab city (Kobani) on October 6, 2014. (Photo by Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 06: Tanks of Turkish Armed Forces are seen on the hills at the Turkey - Syria borderline in the Suruc district of Sanliurfa Turkey, as the clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed groups continue in Ayn al-Arab city (Kobani) on October 6, 2014. (Photo by Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, seen from the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, on October 5, 2014. Turkey warned on October 4 it would not hesitate to strike back at Islamic State jihadists if they attacked Turkish troops stationed at Ankara's exclave inside Syria. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 5: Photograph taken from Sanliurfa's Suruc district, Turkey, shows smoke rises from Syria's Ayn al-Arab city (Kobani) following the shelling during clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed groups in Ayn al-Arab city on October 5, 2014. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: After the howitzer shell fired from Syria, where the clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed troops continue, into Turkey, Turkish military forces take security measures at the border line in the Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, on October 5, 2014. Military tanks are sent to Turkey - Syria border line. Veli Gurgah / Anadolu Agency
US Vice President Joe Biden (L) shakes hands with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu (R) during a meeting in the northern Turkish-controlled area of Nicosia, the capital of the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus on May 22, 2014. The breakaway state that Eroglu leads is recognised only by Turkey, and the US vice president moved swiftly to reassure Greek Cypriots that the meeting signalled no change in US policy. AFP PHOTO / YIANNIS KOURTOGLOU (Photo credit should read Yiannis Kourtoglou/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 2: Turkish armed forces take security measures in Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey as the clashes near to the Turkish-Syrian border intensify between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Syrian Kurdish armed groups in Ayn al-Arab (Kobane), on October 2, 2014. (Photo by Ismail Hakki Demir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Strike on a tank in Iraq
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 2: Photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey shows that smoke rises following the shelling as the clashes near to the Turkish-Syrian border intensify between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Syrian Kurdish armed groups in Ayn al-Arab (Kobane), on October 2, 2014. (Photo by Ismail Hakki Demir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 2: Photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey shows that smoke rises following the shelling as the clashes near to the Turkish-Syrian border intensify between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Syrian Kurdish armed groups in Ayn al-Arab (Kobane), on October 2, 2014. (Photo by Ismail Hakki Demir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Strike on vehicle in Iraq
Air strike against an ISIL-held building east of Al Hasakah, Syria
Strike on a weapons storage facility, Al Hasakah Military Garrison in South Milibya, Syria.
ALEPPO, SYRIA - SEPTEMBER 25: A Syrian inspects the rubble of destroyed building, allegedly belonging to Al-Nusra Front following the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on a residential area in northern Aleppo, Syria on September 25, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - SEPTEMBER 25: A Syrian inspects the rubble of destroyed building, allegedly belonging to Al-Nusra Front following the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on a residential area in northern Aleppo, Syria on September 25, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Syrians inspect the rubble of destroyed building, allegedly belonging to Al-Nusra Front following the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on a residential area in northern Aleppo, Syria on September 25, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Rubble of destroyed building, allegedly belonging to Al-Nusra Front, is seen following the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on a residential area in northern Aleppo, Syria on September 25, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Rubble of destroyed building and a pickup truck, allegedly belonging to Al-Nusra Front, are seen following the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on a residential area in northern Aleppo, Syria on September 25, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr., Joint Staff Director of Operations Director of Operations, shows before and after photos as he speaks on the airstrikes in Syria during a briefing at the Pentagon September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mayville briefed the press about US and Arab nation joint airstrikes against Islamic State(IS) group targets in Syria and unilateral airstrikes against an al-Qaeda group in Syria. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A screen grab from a video posted to YouTube by ISIS that claims to show journalist James Foley, who was abducted in 2012 while covering the Syria civil war, being beheaded.
SALADIN, IRAQ - AUGUST 31: Iraqi armed forces have entered the northern town of Amirli which had been under the siege of Islamic State militants for over two months in Saladin ,Iraq on August 31, 2014. Supported by Kurdish forces and Shiite militias, the Iraqi army launched an offensive shortly after the U.S. carried out airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) positions near the town, and dropped aid for the nearly 20,000 Shiite Turkmen trapped in Amirli. The government forces and Kurdish peshmerga forces have been fighting against the militant group to block their advance. (Stringer - Anadolu Agency)
SALADIN, IRAQ - AUGUST 31: Shiite militias hold the Hezbollah flag after Iraqi forces have entered the northern town of Amirli which had been under the siege of Islamic State militants for over two months in Saladin ,Iraq on August 31, 2014. Supported by Kurdish forces and Shiite militias, the Iraqi army launched an offensive shortly after the U.S. carried out airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) positions near the town, and dropped aid for the nearly 20,000 Shiite Turkmen trapped in Amirli. The government forces and Kurdish peshmerga forces have been fighting against the militant group to block their advance. (Stringer - Anadolu Agency)
KHAZIR FRONTLINE, KRG, IRAQ - 2014/08/26: A Peshmerga soldier makes a victory sign on top of a bunker at the Khazir Frontline. Khazir refugee camp is located outside Kalak, a town halfway on the road between Erbil and Mosul. It was overrun by ISIS militants on the 7th of August following an unprecedented push of the Caliphate into Kurdish territory. Its thousands of Iraqi and Arab refugees were forced to flee again as the now deserted camp has become the new frontline between the Peshmerga and ISIS. It is the theatre of frequent U.S. airstrikes that have helped halt the ISIS advance into a stalemate situation. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - AUGUST 19: Iraqi army forces and Peshmerga forces take security precautions against possible Islamic State (IS)-led terrorist groups' attacks with heavy weapons and armoured vehicles around the Mosul Dam on August 19, 2014 in Mosul, Iraq. IS-led militants had seized the control of the dam and they were driven after the U.S. airstrikes and ground offensive of Iraqi troops. (Photo by Sivan Siddik/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Peshmerga fighter looks at the remains of a car, bearing an image of the trademark jihadist flag, which reportedly belonged to Islamic State (IS) militants after it was targeted by an American air strike in the village of Baqufa, north of Mosul, on August 18, 2014. Kurdish peshmerga fighters backed by federal forces and US warplanes pressed a counter-offensive Monday against jihadists after retaking Iraq's largest dam, as the United States and Britain stepped up their military involvement. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - AUGUST 9: Fierce clashes keep going on between Peshmerga forces and Islamic State-led armed groups outside of Makhmur district of Mosul, Iraq on August 9, 2014. It's stated that Peshmerga forces silence the Islamic State members with attacks staged with Iraqi air forces' strikes, Katyusha rockets, howitzers and heavy weapons. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSUL, IRAQ - AUGUST 9: Fierce clashes keep going on between Peshmerga forces and Islamic State-led armed groups outside of Makhmur district of Mosul, Iraq on August 9, 2014. It's stated that Peshmerga forces silence the Islamic State members with attacks staged with Iraqi air forces' strikes, Katyusha rockets, howitzers and heavy weapons. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

An alleged ISIS militant calling himself 'the Palestinian Slayer'

Druze men stand in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights as they look at smoke rising in the distance caused by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels over the control of the Quneitra border crossing, on August 27, 2014. Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone (UNDOF) use binoculars to watch smoke rising in the distance caused by fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels over the control of the Quneitra border crossing, on August 27, 2014. Syrian rebels, including Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized control of the Syrian crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters hold a position on the front line in the Gwer district, 40 kilometres south of Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, on September 18, 2014. France said that it will follow the United States in launching air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq, as the jihadists posted their latest video of a Western hostage. AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
A rebel fightercarries homemade mortar rounds on September 3, 2013 in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. UN leader Ban Ki-moon said on September 3, 2013 that a military strike on Syria over the use of chemical weapons could worsen the country's conflict. AFP PHOTO / MEZAR MATAR (Photo credit should read MEZAR MATAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Credit: Facebook
British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on 3, September 2014, after chairing an emergency meeting following the execution of a second US journalist by Islamist fighters in Iraq and the threat that a British hostage will be next. In a video showing the severed head of 31-year-old Steven Sotloff, a masked militant warned a British man, widely identified as David Cawthorne Haines, would be killed in response to US air strikes against militants in northern Iraq. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama leaves after speaking during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
French President Francois Hollande holds a press conference with Madagascar president (unseen) at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on September 19, 2014. Earlier today, Hollande made a statement on France's first air strike in Iraq. French jets carried out their first air strike against Islamic State militants in Iraq, successfully destroying their target, Hollande announced, vowing that more operations would follow. Hollande himself visited Iraq late last week -- the most high-profile leader to do so since jihadists stormed across the country -- and Paris hosted an international conference on the crisis last Monday. AFP PHOTO FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Iraqi families from the Yazidi community cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing to safety, in northern Iraq, on August 13, 2014. At least 20,000 civilians, most of whom are from the Yazidi community, who had been besieged by jihadists on a mountain in northern Iraq have safely escaped to Syria and been escorted by Kurdish forces back into Iraq, officials said. The breakthrough coincided with US air raids on Islamic State fighters in the Sinjar area of northwestern Iraq on August 9, and Kurdish forces from Iraq, Syria and Turkey working together to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and rescue the displaced AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Peshmerga forces hand out water bottles and show the way to displaced Iraqi families from the Yazidi community as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing, in northern Iraq, on August 11, 2014. At least 20,000 civilians, most of whom are from the Yazidi community, who had been besieged by jihadists on a mountain in northern Iraq have safely escaped to Syria and been escorted by Kurdish forces back into Iraq, officials said. The breakthrough coincided with US air raids on Islamic State fighters in the Sinjar area of northwestern Iraq on August 9, and Kurdish forces from Iraq, Syria and Turkey working together to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and rescue the displaced. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 22: Syrians, fleeing from clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants and Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces in the Tal Abyad district of Syria's Ar-Raqqah Governorate, passing through Turkish border gate on September 22, 2014 in Suruc district of Sanliurfa province of Turkey. (Photo by Orhan Cicek/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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In areas of Syria and Iraq under their control, the Sunni extremists have closed schools or changed the curriculum to fit with their ideology. Their goal, according to the U.N., is to use education as a tool of indoctrination to foster a new generation of supporters.

A video recently published by an IS media arm shows what it says is a graduation ceremony for boys, who appear to be in their teens. Dressed in military uniforms, they are lined up to shake hands with a sheikh. Another scene shows the boys posing with AK-47s, their faces hidden under black masks. The video touts the children as a "generation of lions, protectors of religion, dignity and land."

Residents of IS-controlled areas said the militants are teaching children at school to become fighters.

One resident in the Iraqi city of Fallujah described seeing his 6-year-old son playing with a water pistol in front of the house and screaming: "I am a fighter for the Islamic State!"

"I waved him to come to me and I broke the gun in two pieces," said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of his life.

He also said he and his son recently stopped at an IS checkpoint. His son shouted, "We love the State!" and one of the fighters asked, "Which state?" When the son replied, "the Islamic State," the fighter "told him, 'Good boy,' and let us through," the resident said. The incident persuaded the man to move his family to the northern city of Kirkuk, now in Kurdish hands.

"The boys are studying, not to learn, but to become mujahedeen," he said.

Earlier this year in Syria, the Islamic State group abducted more than 150 Kurdish boys, held them in a school in Aleppo province and showed them videos of beheadings and attacks, while subjecting them to daily instruction on militant ideology for five months, the U.N. and Kurdish officials said. The boys were later released.

In Raqqa province, an anti-IS activist collective has documented the presence of at least five known youth training camps, one specifically for children under 16 in the town of Tabqa. The collective, named Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, has released a video showing children crawling under barbed wire as part of their military training. The video could not be independently confirmed but is consistent with AP reporting on the subject.

Residents in IS-controlled areas in Iraq, such as Mosul and Fallujah, say it is not uncommon to see gun-toting boys in their late teens standing at checkpoints and even younger ones riding in militant convoys, usually accompanying their fathers in parades.

Another resident of Fallujah said many boys as young as 11 volunteer to join the group, but that IS often seeks the parents' consent for those under 16. He said others join under pressure or in exchange for money.

"Once they're done training, their skills and abilities are tested before they decide where to send them off. Many want to be on the front lines," said the man, who identified himself as Abu Abdullah al-Falluji.

In a report released earlier this year, Human Rights Watch interviewed four former IS child fighters in Syria who described military training with the group. One, Bassem, who joined the group at 16, said he left after being seriously wounded by shrapnel in battle. A 17 year old, Amr, told the group that children in his unit signed up for suicide missions - and that he reluctantly did so as well under pressure.

Thousands of foreign fighters have flocked to IS areas from all over the world, many of them with their families.

A video emerged this month showing two boys, both speaking perfect French, holding guns aloft and claiming to be in Raqqa. They stand on a dusty street; a man walks by and takes no notice of their weapons. The boys, who look much younger than 10, say they're from Strasbourg and Toulouse. French prosecutors have opened a formal investigation to identify the children.

"Over there, you're in a country of infidels. Here, we're mujahedeen. We're in Syria, we're in Raqqa here," one of the boys says in the video. "It's war here."

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