The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on October 26, 2019, in the Idlib region of Syria came more than five years after he gave his first public speech as the claimed caliph of the so-called Islamic State. During that time, his organization governed an expansive territory and directed and inspired deadly terror attacks. While al-Baghdadi’s death is an important event in the fight against the group, the Islamic State’s governing role gave it the ability to implement a strategy to cultivate a new generation of adherents, especially among the minors whose parents were affiliated with the group.
The issue of minors who lived in the Islamic State’s caliphate is complicated and layered. Mere parental affiliation with the Islamic State does not indicate that a minor will join or sympathize with the group, or even that such an outcome is likely. Moreover, the risk that these minors will become involved in terrorism is only one of a number of future challenges they face, many of which are arguably more likely and pressing. To better understand and address these issues, more concrete data about this population of minors is needed.
A new Combating Terrorism Center report leverages a key, internal Islamic State registry to provide an empirically based perspective of the number of minors whose parents were affiliated with the group. It does so by offering a more concrete view of: 1) the number of minors that the Islamic State was tracking and 2) other details that the group cataloged that illustrate potential challenges these minors faced or may face in the future.