NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – The United Nations is "deeply worried" that Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East have begun recruiting child soldiers for front line fighting and suicide missions.
The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Iraq said in a statement the terror group is targeting young people in at least one of the region's "displacement camps" and the children – all boys – are being transported to areas for active combat, many of them against their wills.
"Involving children in fighting is totally unacceptable," Lise Grande, the humanitarian coordinator for Iraq said in the press release. "We are deeply concerned by the reports that this is happening."
While Grande insisted that international humanitarian law prohibits military or paramilitary forces from using minors in hostilities and deploying military units to civilian areas, ISIS has shown no compunction for obeying any laws other than those prescribed in the Quran.
Still, Grande said there is "nothing more important than ensuring the safety of civilians during the conflict." She said the battle to retake Mosul in northern Iraq could start again soon and place the lives of thousands of civilians at risk. ISIS is likely to use the civilians as a buffer in the fighting.
"Under no circumstances can civilians be used as human shields," Grande said. "This violates all the principles of humanity."
But they can be used and they are being used.
They are also being used to conduct suicide operations. In two incidents in August, children were forced to participate in suicide bombings perpetrated by ISIS. Only one of them – at a wedding in Turkey – was successful. The child, thought to be age 12 to 14, was used to kill 51 people in a Kurdish area close to the Syrian border.
The Kurds have been actively engaged in fighting ISIS along the Syrian border.
In the second instance, a boy age 12 or 13 was stopped by police in Kirkuk, Iraq, shortly after another suicide bomb had gone off at an area mosque. The boy wept as police removed and disarmed his explosive vest in the Huzairan neighborhood of the Kurdish city. The boy was said to be from Mosul, where ISIS still has a strong foothold.
"The boy claimed during interrogation that he had been kidnapped by masked men who put the explosives on him and sent him to the area," an intelligence officer in Kirkuk told reporters.