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Children at War: Foreign Child Recruits of the Islamic State

The group known as the Islamic State rose to international infamy on the back of a number of factors: the attraction of thousands (if not tens of thousands) of foreigners to its ranks, a campaign of grotesque violence perpetrated against a diverse array of individuals, military victories against western-trained security forces, and a wide-ranging media effort both on the ground and online. One strategy employed by the group that garnered a significant amount of media attention was its exploitation of children.  

This study is certainly not the first to focus on the Islamic State’s use of children. Indeed, scholars and practitioners have conducted a number of studies on how the Islamic State recruits and uses children for a variety of organizational purposes. These works build on a still larger literature that discusses the role of children in warfare around the world. And even within the Iraq and Syria landscape, the Islamic State is not the only entity that draws in and employs children. The contribution of this article is to add a data-driven picture of a subset of children within the Islamic State organization: those who traveled to the conflict zone either alone, with friends, or with family, to join the Islamic State as fighters. This contribution is enabled by an examination of Islamic State personnel documents for individuals entering the caliphate from 2013-2014.

Read more at the Counter Terrorism Center

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