According to German intelligence officials, ISIS is training teenagers as young as 13 to commit terrorist attacks.
ISIS has recruited children in desperate situations who were returning from war zones like Syria and Iraq. German officials are estimating that 950 people in Germany have been recruited by ISIS, 5% of which are estimated to be minors.
Besides taking advantage of children in war zones and targeting the younger generation online, some ISIS-supporting parents have brainwashed their children to also support the terrorist organization.
“When you know how ISIS treats children … then you have to assume that you are dealing with people who are willing to unconditionally torture and kill for ISIS,” said Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV). “We see the danger that children of jihadists are Islamically socialized and return from the fighting areas to Germany indoctrinated.”
In the last few years, Germany has had ISIS incidents committed by teenagers loyal to the terrorist group.
“In February, a 15-year-old Muslim girl was arrested for attacking a German police officer with a knife at Hanover train station. She had been indoctrinated by ISIS’ online propaganda,” writes NBC News.
“In Islamic State propaganda, children stand for a new generation of IS fighters who are portrayed as unscrupulous and brutal,” said Maassen.
ISIS has often used children in its propaganda videos in the past.
What’s even more terrifying is the fact that these soldiers are harder to detect and take legal action against.
Surveillance on people under the age of 16 is prohibited and children up to the age of 14 are held “non-accountable” in Germany.
Following the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, Maassen thinks that the German intelligence services need to be given more power to protect the public, along with more resources.
“The attacks in Paris and Brussels were somewhat of a wake-up call,” said Maassen. “Europe cannot think like it did in the 1980s and 90s.”
In Bavaria, intelligence agencies have been given more authority to fight terrorism.
“In Bavaria, we have abolished the age limit for surveillance. Normally, the domestic intelligence agency in Bavaria would not place children under surveillance. But if there is concrete evidence that a 12-year old is with an Islamist group, we have to be able to monitor them, too,” said Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann. “I would strongly urge that the age limit for surveillance [carried out by the BfV] be lowered throughout Germany.”
Unfortunately, child soldiers aren’t the only types of soldiers on the rise.
“In addition to the potential threat of child militants, Maassen’s agency has identified more than 8,600 radicalized Muslims and more than 450 violent extremists within Germany’s borders,” writes NBC News. “Out of some 810 German jihadis estimated to have joined ISIS ranks in Syria and Iraq, about 260 trained militants have apparently returned to Germany and “pose a security challenge.”
Author’s note: It’s not surprising that ISIS is still trying to actively recruit. After losing Raqqa as a base, the terrorist groups know it needs numbers. Targeting young people means the soldiers have many years to be loyal to ISIS and do its bidding. Not to mention, they appear much more innocent and are minors in the legal system. This means they can get away with suspicious behavior or even smaller attacks.