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Pfc. Justin Naylor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq— 05.14.2009
A young boy - possibly as young as 14 - drove the vehicle that killed five Iraqi policemen, wounded five others and also wounded 11 civilian bystanders on May 12 in Kirkuk City, according to Kirkuk police.
At this time, no one has claimed credit for the attack. However, four members of the subordinate group of al-Qaida in Iraq known as the "Birds of Paradise," which coalition Force officials say are known to recruit young children because of the diminished scrutiny they encounter from security officials, were arrested in Kirkuk by soldiers from the 12th Iraqi army division on April 14 for suspected insurgent activities, according to official records.
According to the records, the youths were being trained to avoid detection while carrying out insurgent activities and were being taught to become suicide bombers.
Another group whom coalition forces say frequently uses children to carry out their attacks is JRTN, which is an acronym for Jaysh Rijal Al-Tarik al-Naqshabandi, or Men's Army of the Naqshabandi Way. The group is commonly - and mistakenly - referred to by the shorthand reference al-Naqshabandi, which is a legitimate Muslim Sufi group with no institutional history of violence.
The JRTN is a nationalistic organization within Iraq which specifically states that its intent is to cause harm to outside forces, namely the U.S. military. The JRTN recently launched a propaganda campaign depicting children taking part in indirect fire attacks and training with sniper rifles, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Hyatt, a Hornbeck, La., native and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Fusion Chief.
The practice of insurgent groups recruiting Iraqi children is believed to have been started by AQI nearly three years ago, explained Hyatt.
According to Hyatt, within Kirkuk province, at least one other attack has been confirmed as being executed by a child. The child reportedly threw an RKG-3, a type of anti-vehicle grenade, at a passing convoy.
"We want to trust children," said Hyatt.
Terrorist groups are capitalizing on the fact that children do not draw as much attention and Soldiers do not want to harm them, said Hyatt. Children that are hurt while carrying out insurgent activities are also being used in propaganda campaigns by terrorists depicting them as martyrs.
Among local religious leaders, known as Imams, outrage over insurgent groups targeting civilians, youth and Iraqi security forces is beginning to spread.
According to official reports, two Imams - one at a Sunni mosque and the other at a Shia mosque - gave sermons recently condemning insurgents and explaining the repercussions of terrorist activities.
One Imam implored his followers to "wake up and follow the right way and unite and fight against terrorists," according to the report.
According to the same report, the other Imam explained to his congregation that a recent IED attack was cowardly because it killed and injured many civilians, and those who committed the act will face consequences.
According to Maj. Gen. Abdul Ameer, the commander of the 12th Iraqi army division in Kirkuk province, the use of children to carry out attacks is "is the method of someone losing the war ... Their infrastructure is being destroyed and their leaders are being arrested and killed. They are sending a message that, 'we are still here, but we have to rely on every method to carry out our terrorist operations.'"