The boy hovered above the handcuffed soldier, who confessed to being a Syrian army captain. Clad in camouflage and clutching a small knife, the child, one of the Islamic State’s newest recruits, forced his prisoner onto his stomach. He jerked the man’s head back by his hair and put the blade to his throat. Then he began to saw. Later, the boy, whose name and age are unknown, posed with the prisoner’s severed head.
The scene, filmed outside the Syrian city of Palmyra and released by the Islamic State last week, marked the first time ISIS had publicly shown a child carrying out a decapitation. And it was the third time in less than two weeks that the jihadist group bragged about a killing committed by its growing band of child soldiers.
The spate of killings carried out by children this month underscore the Islamic State’s success in molding a new generation of militants that, to many experts, appears different and in some ways more disturbing than the child soldiers used in previous conflicts around the world. A disparate band of psychologists, human rights advocates and aid workers is now warning that the programs used to treat children forced to fight in other wars—many of whom develop psychological disorders after the fighting, and who are sometimes banished from their communities—may not work in rehabilitating those living under ISIS. Some fear an entire generation of boys and girls could already be lost.
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