Nearly 300 Islamic State child soldiers have been killed in the Iraqi offensive on the city of Mosul, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) notes.
ISIS’s child soldiers are known as “lion cubs of the caliphate” or “caliphate cubs” and have been prominently featured in ISIS propaganda videos for years. The U.S. estimates nearly 900 ISIS fighters were killed in the Mosul operation so far, U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters Friday.
The U.S. estimate and SOHR report indicate nearly one-third of ISIS fighters killed in the operation are child soldiers. U.S. officials estimate there are nearly 3,000 to 5,000 fighters remaining in the city of Mosul, who are heavily entrenched.
Since the operation began, ISIS has been “taking tens of thousands of men, women and children from the outskirts of Mosul and bringing them into the city … to use them as human shields against the Iraqi forces advance on Mosul,” the United Nations Human Rights Office said in a Friday statement. The UN also believes ISIS executed nearly 232 civilians in Mosul Oct. 26.
ISIS isn’t the only terrorist group using child soldiers in the Battle for Mosul. Human Rights Watch warned in late August that Iraqi government-backed militias were recruiting children for the operation to retake Mosul. The gray area of government-backed militias has complicated the U.S.-backed effort to retake cities held by ISIS throughout Iraq.
The U.S. maintains its mission in Iraq is focused on training and advising the official Iraqi Security Forces. The Iraqi government however has allowed several religiously affiliated militias to participate in the ISIS offensives, despite deep reservations from the U.S. Many of these militias have connections to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and are responsible for sectarian war crimes against Sunni minorities in Iraq.
During the U.S. backed effort to retake the city of Ramadi from ISIS, Iranian-backed militias played a key role in retaking the city. After retaking the city, the militias maintained a presence in the area and reportedly targeted Sunni civilians.
“The government and its foreign allies need to take action now, or children are going to be fighting on both sides in Mosul,” senior children’s rights researcher Bill Van Esveld noted in the Human Rights Watch report.
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