The Islamic State recently a video showing a teenage boy kissing his father goodbye before apparently carrying out a suicide car-bombing north of the Syrian city of Aleppo.
Scholars say the group has been posting such videos in increasing numbers recently, suggesting its use of child soldiers exceeds estimates.
The propaganda video was released online by the terrorist organization on February 19.
In the 23-minute film, the teen, identified as Abu Imar al-Omari, is interviewed with his father discussing his impending suicide mission, along with a montage of his training to carry out a vehicle-borne suicide attack. It culminates with footage from a distance claiming to show the teen detonating the explosives-laden SUV in an attack on regime forces.
The boy says on camera that the decision to carry out the suicide bombing was the “greatest feeling one could feel.”
“I hope that the suicide attack will be my greatest moment,” he tells the camera. He says it was his father who encouraged him to carry out the attack.
The father explains in the video that his son’s suicide attack will ensure his entry to heaven.
“A man who fears for his son’s welfare doesn’t let him save himself from the fires of hell,” the father says in the video before sending his son off, according to a translation of the Arabic by Israel’s Channel 2. “This attack will be the key to the Garden of Eden, God willing.”
A study published a day before the release of the film said the Islamic State published propaganda material featuring minors in suicide missions at least 89 times in the past year.
“The Islamic State is mobilizing children and youth at an increasing and unprecedented rate,” the West Point study’s authors wrote. “The data suggests that the number of child and youth militants far exceeds current estimates.”
The authors posit that attacks by children may be “an effective form of psychological warfare—to project strength, pierce defenses, and strike fear into enemy soldiers’ hearts.”