London: Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists are training the children of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq to create the “next generation” of militants, according to a latest European report.
In its annual report on terrorism in the European Union (EU), Europol said children raised under the group’s rule are of “particular concern”.
“In their propaganda, ISIS has often shown that they train these minors to become the next generation of foreign terrorist fighters, which may pose a future security threat to member states,” the report said.
“Some returnees will perpetuate the terrorist threat to the EU via facilitation, fundraising, recruitment and radicalisation activities. They may also serve as role models for future would-be violent jihadists,” the Independent newspaper said, citing the report.
More than 50 children from the UK are living in the so-called “caliphate”, where there are also an estimated 31,000 pregnant women, an investigation by the Quilliam Foundation had found earlier this year.
Analysts say ISIS leaders see the children as crucial to secure the group’s long-term success and consider them better and more lethal fighters because of their indoctrination and de-sensitisation since birth.
Nikita Malik, a senior researcher from the Quilliam Foundation, said that children are being used as part of the terrorist group’s “state-building exercise” in Iraq and Syria.
“They are an immediate threat and will become a much longer-term one. Their educational indoctrination breeds hatred against the West and calls all other states illegitimate – these children will have no access to or memory of any other ideas,” she told the paper.
The report said girls are not yet permitted to fight but are trained to raise their children in line with ISIS ideology with the promise of “respect and affection” from male relatives.
The number of children born to foreign fighters is believed to be increasing as a growing proportion of “jihadi brides” travel to join ISIS.
Europol estimates that more than 5,000 Europeans have travelled to Syria and Iraq – mainly to join ISIS – but said the flow has slowed since an increase in counter-terror measures and intensifying air strikes and military defeats.