A video identified as showing a group of Egyptian children carrying out a mock execution-style beheading has caused shock and dismay after being shared on social media in Egypt.
The seven children in the video were identified in a Facebook post by Egyptian freelance writer Tamer Abdo Amin as hailing from the Egyptian town of El-Mahalla El-Kubra, a large industrial and agricultural town in Egypt's Nile Delta region. The date on which the video was filmed is unknown, although it appeared on social media around February 19. It is also unclear who made the video, whether it was staged or spontaneous, and where it first appeared on social media.
The 24-second video mimics the style and format of videos created and shared by the Islamic State (IS) group. In the video, two small children are shown kneeling before two larger children, who play at being militants and hold "knives" -- wooden sticks -- to their throats. Two other stick-wielding children flank the "prisoners" while another boy speaks to camera.
"We have no religion or nation. We slaughter children, women, and the elderly. We have decided the following -- to kill all the youths of the town of [inaudible]. Slaughter then, o men!" the boy says, according to a translation of the video by Bahraini blogger and journalist Amira Al Hussaini.
The two "militants" holding their small "captives" then pretend to slit their throats or behead them.
Over the past months, there have been growing concerns about IS's co-opting of children as militants and as sex slaves in Iraq and Syria.
A report published on February 4 by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said that it is "seriously concerned" about large-scale child recruitment by armed groups in Iraq, particularly IS. The report found that militants are targeting the most vulnerable children, including those with disabilities, street children, and those who have lost parents, and are even using them as suicide bombers.
There is ample evidence that IS is training and deploying children as fighters. Much of this evidence is published by the militants themselves, who have not shied away from the fact that children as young as 12 are being used as suicide bombers and fighters in battles.
A photograph shared widely on social media in October showed a young IS militant who appeared no older than around 12 or 13.
Activists and Syrian civilians have also reported that IS has run military and ideological training camps for small children in areas under its control.
A video released by IS in November and titled Race Toward Good showed a group of ethnic Kazakh children undergoing military and ideological training in Syria.
IS released another video in January that appears to show a child militant -- who may be one of the children featured in the Kazakh video -- carrying out an execution-style killing by seemingly shooting two men accused by the militants of being Russian spies.
The extremist group's casual attitude toward the use of child fighters is also clear in social media postings made by militants themselves. A December post by a Russian-speaking militant on the Russian social-networking site VKontakte explained that militants were seeking a wife for a 15-year-old Syrian boy who had fought alongside them in several battles, including in Kobani.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk