The latest edition of Dabiq, the full-color, glossy propaganda magazine published by Islamic State (IS) militants, praises two children who have carried out execution-style killings for the militant group.
The eighth issue of Dabiq magazine, whose cover has the headline Sharia Alone Will Rule Africa, was shared on social media on March 30.
An article titled The Lions Of Tomorrow features photographs of the two child militants, both of whom are shown in videos apparently shooting captives that IS had accused of being foreign agents.
One of the children, who was shown apparently shooting dead two men accused of being Russian spies in a video released in January, looks very similar to a young Kazakh boy who appeared in an earlier video showing a group of ethnic Kazakh children undergoing military and ideological instruction.
The second child is shown in a video released earlier this month, where he appears to shoot dead a Palestinian man whom IS had accused of spying for Israel's Mossad.
The Dabiq article refers to the children as "the lion cubs of the Khilafah (caliphate)," a term that IS has adopted to refer to its child militants. IS refers to the lands under its control as a "caliphate."
IS's use of children to carry out execution-style killings led to outpourings of shock and disgust across Western and Arab media. Dabiq referred to these reactions in its article, suggesting that IS militants had deliberately chosen to film the "child executioners" in order to create this response.
"As expected, the kuffar (infidels) were up in arms about the Khalifah's use of 'child soldiers'," Dabiq wrote.
The author of the article goes on to justify the use of children as soldiers and to carry out killings by saying that this is part of IS's interpretation of Islam and Islamic history.
"This was the Sunnah (Muslim way of life based on Muhammad's teachings and the Koran) of Allah's Messenger, who would allow those capable from among the young Sahabah (the Prophet Muhammad's companions) to participate in his battles against the mushrikin (polytheists)," Dabiq says.
As part of its attempts to ground its justifications for training and using child soldiers in terms of Islamic history, law, and tradition, Dabiq also refers to the battle in which these children are being made to fight in terms of a centuries-long, epic struggle between Islam and the "crusaders" and "infidels."
"The Islamic State has taken upon itself to fulfill the Ummah's (the global community of Muslims) duty toward this generation by preparing it to face the crusaders and their allies in defense of Islam. ... It has established institutes for these lion cubs to train and hone their military skills," Dabiq adds.
Dabiq magazine is named after an area in Syria where some Muslims believe an apocalyptic battle between Islamic mujahedin (fighters who are waging jihad) and the "Romans," or Christians, will take place.
In addition to the two-page spread praising child executioners, the latest edition of Dabiq includes a two-page advertisement-style spread calling on Western Muslims to travel to Syria and Iraq to join IS, and a pinup style montage of photographs featuring ginger-bearded French militant Abu Suhayb al-Faransi.
Also included are articles about the alleged destruction by IS militants of ancient treasures in a museum in Iraq's Mosul. The destruction had "caused an outcry from the enemies of the Islamic State," Dabiq said.
Just as IS attempted to justify the use of child soldiers by referring to Islamic history and the Koran, Dabiq also tried to vindicate the militants' destruction of Iraq's priceless heritage by saying that displaying these treasures in a museum "opposes the guidance of Allah and His Messenger and only serves a nationalist agenda."
The eighth issue of Dabiq also features a new article apparently written by John Cantlie, the British hostage held by IS.
With the headline Paradigm Shift, Cantlie's latest piece argues that there has been a "crucially telling shift" in how Western leaders are discussing IS.
Cantlie suggests that the United States and some of its allies have begun to talk about IS using terms that indicate they consider it to be a country or a state, rather than just an organization.
"[There's] little reason why the [Islamic] State should not be considered a country...And if it's not the Islamic State's country, then just whose is it?" Cantlie asks, arguing that the lands controlled by IS do not belong to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or the "newly instated and incompetent puppet Iraqi government, tucked away in Baghdad."
Cantlie himself refers to the attributes of statehood that IS have said justifies defining the lands under their control as a country: IS is able to "lay siege to cities," it has its own police force, tanks, artillery pieces, and "an army of soldiers tens of thousands strong," he says.
Other symbols of statehood possessed by IS are "spy drones" and a mint, the British hostage argues.
Cantlie argues that it is pride and prestige that are preventing the United States from being able to "face the Islamic State as a country."
"That's going to take some swallowing of pride," Cantlie writes, using another propaganda message that runs through IS's recent messages, including this edition of Dabiq: that IS has expanded. The "black flag of the Caliphate [is] now seen on the skylines of Africa, Arabia, and Asia."
While a truce with IS would be hard for the West to swallow, Cantlie argues that "the impossible can and does happen."
-- Joanna Paraszczuk