Thu, 26 May 2022

ABUJA, NIGERIA - A video released this week by the Nigerian terrorist group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) appears to show armed children executing two military officers. Security experts say the recruitment of Nigerian children into violent extremism is hampering efforts by authorities to end the insurgency.

The 27-minute-long video was released Tuesday by SITE Intelligence Group - a jihadist monitoring organization.

In the video, young militants around 12 years old are seen shooting two men in the head who are dressed in Nigeria military uniforms. The video also shows many young fighters receiving military training.

Nigeria military authorities have yet to issue a statement on the video.

This is not the first time armed groups have released video of child soldiers executing abductees. But security analysts are concerned the latest video will undercut claims by authorities they are gaining ground in the battle against terrorists.

Senator Iroegbu is the founder of the online security magazine, The Global Sentinel.

'Where it becomes concerning, apart from the fact that this violates the rights of these children, is the element of continuity because they are indoctrinating these children right from the young age and it presents a problem that means they're planning about their succession ahead of time,' Iroegbu said. 'This is one of their strategies.'

This week, the military said troops rescued 16 abductees and that 863 terrorists quit Boko Haram.

But experts say the recruiting of young fighters makes it more difficult to defeat terror groups and can hamper the efforts of the authorities.

Security intelligence groups say child soldiers are often used by the terrorists as spies and informants to gather intelligence from target communities.

'Because they look innocent and they have been radicalized, it presents a dilemma because in observance of rule of engagement you can't just see a child and start shooting the child,' Iroegbu said.

UNICEF says some 95,000 children were recruited globally between 2005 and 2020 and that more than 3,500 were recruited by militants in Nigeria between 2013 and 2017.

In the past, Boko Haram often used children as suicide bombers - a practice that attracted widespread criticism.

Security analyst Ebenezer Oyetakin said poverty helps drive kids into the arms of terrorists.

'The most important way to win this kind of a war is to ensure that in the first place we enlarge the basis of the economy of our nation,' Oyetakin said. 'A country of over 200 million people should have a minimum of 1 trillion in GDP because we cannot win this battle only by the kinetic, we must also win it in the belly of our children in their self-esteem in their capacities to care for themselves."

Islamic State West Africa Province split off from Boko Haram in 2016. The group's activities raise concerns about IS expanding its enclaves to West Africa.

Both Boko Haram and ISWAP are fighting and anti-government war to create their own Islamic caliphate in northeastern Nigeria. UNICEF says the war has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced millions more.

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