A Syrian boy managed to escape from the Islamic State by volunteering to be a suicide bomber and then surrendering to Iraqi security forces, the New York Times reported Friday.
Usaid Barho, who is from Manbij, near Aleppo, had once dreamed of being a doctor but was soon “seduced” by the caliphate. He joined because he “believed in Isam,” he says, but now admits he was brainwashed.
“They planted the idea in me that Shiites are infidels, and we had to kill them,” Usaid told the New York Times. They also warned Usaid that if he did not fight, his mother would be raped.
He ran away from home to join an ISIS training camp, one of the many the group has established throughout Iraq and Syria to indoctrinate children whose loyalty they see as invaluable.
The militants recruit between 200 and 300 children every month, either kidnapping them or buying them from their parents, the International Business Times reported last month. Between March 2011 and April 2014, at least 8,803 children are reported to have been killed, more than a quarter of whom were under 10 years old, according to United Nations report.
The jihadists-in-training are called the “cubs of the Islamic State,” according to the Times, and are trained to use AK-47’s, behead victims, and storm buildings.
An activist group in the IS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, has documented these training camps in photos and videos.
At his camp, Usaid says he was taught to use a machine gun and was forced to watch execution videos. He claims he saw fighters smoking and having sex with other men behind tents. “I noticed things I saw that were different from Islam,” he told the New York Times.
Soon, Usaid was given two options: fight, or become a suicide bomber. Usaid chose the latter, as he had become disillusioned with the group and figured it would give him the freedom he needed to defect.
ISIS then instructed him to bomb a Shiite mosque in the neighbourhood of Bayaa, Iraq. Instead, he walked upto the guards standing outside and said, “I have a suicide vest, but I don’t want to blow myself up.” His vest was promptly cut off of him by an Iraqi officer, and he was arrested.
Usaid is currently being held at a secret Iraqi intelligence facility where he is being interrogated. Whether or not he is charged as a terrorist remains to be seen, but his interrogator told the New York Times that he would ultimately take Usaid’s side because, in the end, the boy’s decision not to bomb the mosque “saved lives.”
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