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New IS Video Shows Raqqa Training Camp For Young Children


A screen capture from the nine-minute IS video titled Al Farouq Training Camp for Cubs, a term used by militants to describe young "jihadis"

A screen capture from the nine-minute IS video titled Al Farouq Training Camp for Cubs, a term used by militants to describe young "jihadis"

A new video released by the Islamic State (IS) group shows a group of young children participating in a military training camp in Raqqa, Syria.

The nine-minute video, which was shared on social media on February 22, is titled Al Farouq Training Camp for Cubs, a term used by militants to describe young "jihadis" and which is a reference from the militants' use of the word "lions" to refer to themselves.

The video shows the children, who appear as young as 10 or 11, dressed in military fatigues and wearing black headbands with the Arabic phrase "la ilaha illallah" (There is no God but Allah) written in white.

The children are filmed standing in eight rows of 11, each headed by a taller child dressed in gray or black. Black IS flags are held by some of the children. They are shown practicing military drills, which involve obeying commands shouted to them in Arabic by an adult instructor.

In later scenes, the children are shown kneeling in a circle and undergoing instruction about jihad from an adult militant. One of the children is filmed reciting the Koran. The children are later filmed praying as a group.

Charles Lister, an expert on the Syria conflict and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Center in Doha tweeted that the training camp is located in Raqqa, Syria.

IS 'Education' For Children

The release of the video came after the emergence on social media of a photograph of an English-language notice announcing that IS militants are opening an English-language school in Raqqa.

The notice, which was shared on Twitter on February 22 by the activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, says that IS is opening two schools for English-speaking children, the Abu Musab Zarqawi school for boys and the Aisha School for girls. Zarqawi was the founder of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group he led from 2004-06.

A capture from the IS video titled Al Farouq Training Camp for Cubs

A capture from the IS video titled Al Farouq Training Camp for Cubs

The schools are for children aged between 6 and 14, and are intended for the offspring of English-speaking militants living in Raqqa.

The notice says that lessons will run from 9 a.m. through noon Sunday through Wednesday and will mostly include instruction in religion: Koran, Aqidah ("creed"), Hadith (reports of the teachings, deeds, and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), Sirah (traditional biographies of the Prophet Muhammad), Islamic jurisprudence, and jihad -- though there will also be classes in Arabic, math, and English.

The English-language schools are not the first opened by IS for the children of foreign militants. In April, a group of Russian-speaking militants from the Daghestani-led IS faction Abu Hanif's Jamaat opened a Russian-language school and kindergarten in Raqqa.

The group said via announcements on social media that the schools would be based on Shari'a law and would avoid "false gods," like Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin, and "theories like evolution." Lessons were to include Arabic, Russian, math, and physical education as well as instruction in the rules governing pronunciation during Koran recitation and basic military training.

The release of the video showing the children's training camp comes amid growing concerns about the effects that IS's media campaign, including its videos, are having on young people, after a group of children in Egypt were shown carrying out a mock beheading in a video released last week.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk​

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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