Besides the recruitment of Americans by Islamic terrorist groups — especially American teenagers and young adults — using advanced methods using the Internet’s social media websites, within the Middle East as well as parts of Africa and Asia there is an intense drive to indoctrinate and train local youths to carry out terrorist attacks and activities. Their youth program is best described as a cross between the Boy Scouts and the Chicago-based Vice Lords street gang.
For example, the powerful and deadly Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recently boasted about the success of its recruitment and training program that is increasing their numbers on a daily basis. These junior jihadists are not those traveling from the West, but local youngsters who are easily swayed to embrace radical Islam and to undergo intensive, sometimes dangerous, training at camps set up with young people in mind.
For example, Fox News Channel highlighted what ISIS claims was its first graduating class of “soldiers” from their newly established training camp in Afghanistan. While the Afghan military and police struggle to combat Islamists from the Taliban, and with U.S. and coalition troops providing minimal assistance, ISIS commanders have demonstrated that their “group’s ambitions extend far beyond the Middle East and have moved into the increasingly unstable country.”
In January of this year, ISIS commanders bragged about their plans to expand their reach into Afghanistan and they are fulfilling their claim. Within three months of their message of expansion, they launched a suicide attack that killed at least 35 people in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, an attack believed to have been purposely downplayed by President Barack Obama and his national security team.
While ISIS is still less powerful than the Taliban, the fact that they are recruiting and expanding operations in the already fragile nation of Afghanistan has worried U.S. and NATO military commanders and intelligence agents.
But ISIS isn’t alone and it isn’t the first terrorist group to devote a lot of its resources to recruitment and training of children and teenagers. That distinction belongs to the Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) who are inhabiting the Gaza Strip which borders Israel.
Hamas’ military-wing has been running children’s summer camps in the Gaza Strip each year. Parents generally register their children for these summer camps mostly in mosques. The slogan for the Hamas summer camps are “Victory through youth.”
Tens of thousands of children and adolescents from elementary school age to high school age take part in the summer activities, especially now since the United Nations ceased their children’s summer programs. As in previous years, in addition to social activities the camps also offers Koran lessons, indoctrination with Hamas’ political ideology, and paramilitary training, according to an Israeli source.
Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip regard the summer camps as a means for inculcating their ideological values and nurturing the next generation of operatives and supporters.
The core values are radical Islam, “the liberation of Palestine,” jihad and death for the sake of Allah, and other messages drawn from Hamas’ ideology and strategy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (e.g., support for the “right of return,” demand Israel free all Palestinian prisoners, the “liberation” of Palestine from Israel, and indoctrination of hatred against Israel and the Jewish people). The summer camps are often visited by top Hamas officials who help spread the political messages among the youngsters.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the summer camps, senior Hamas official Isma’il Radwan said that their purpose was to bring up a generation of children who would act “in the interests of their homeland”, and give them education emphasizing the Islamic culture and its values. “If the enemy wants to bet on the slogan ‘the adults will die and the children will forget,’ we will tell him that we shall gain liberty and victory, Allah willing,” he said.