A group led by Abdullah al Muhaysini, a popular al Qaeda-linked cleric in Syria, has released a video showing a training camp for children likely located in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib. The video is for the “Cubs of al Aqsa [referring to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem] camp” and has been translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
The video starts with a young boy decrying organizations for children in Syria. “O you who established organizations for protecting the rights of children!” The child goes on to say, “I am a child and my rights were violated, my school destroyed, and my dreams lost. I lost my mother and father under the rubble. You have heard my cries, you have heard my groans, you saw my tears and my blood and none of you did anything for me!”
The child ends with “So here I am, one of the cubs of Islam. Here I am today, one of the cubs of Tawhid [monotheism]. I took off the cloak of childhood and the innocence of children, and I went out to emulate men! I share with them the concern of the life in the defense of the land, the honor, and the religion.”
Abdullah al Muhaysini then makes a short speech calling out to different areas of Syria to “wait for glad tidings.” He exclaims, “O every land of the Muslims defiled by the occupiers! Wait for the glad tidings that the sons of your Ummah, the sons of Islam, have presented their elder and their young men, their men and their children [for sacrifice], and that the Islamic giant has awoke!”
The rest of the video shows several children training in the camp with physical exercises and weapons drills.
In addition to the latest facility, at least 14 other jihadist training camps for children in Iraq and Syria have been identified by The Long War Journal. Many of these camps are run by the Islamic State, but the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and the Chechen-led Junud al Sham also run camps for children.
Since the beginning of 2012, a total of 130 camps have been identified as being operational at one point in time. Of those, 94 have been found in Syria, and 36 in Iraq. The Islamic State has operated 62 camps (34 in Iraq, 28 in Syria). The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has operated 24 facilities inside Syria. Allied jihadist groups have run 44 other camps (42 in Syria and two in Iraq).
Screenshots from the video:
Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.