An Iraqi Shia militia has allegedly established a large military camp near Kirkuk, dedicated to training children ‘to take up arms’.
Iraqi Shia militias are allegedly training teenagers to fight with a large camp uncovered near Kirkuk dedicated to encouraging children as young as nine to take up arms.
The Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilisation Forces] militiamen at the camp are said to have indoctrinated, radicalised and trained hundreds of children, a local official in the province told The New Arab.
This was taking place at “a large camp” in the village of Bashir, south of Kirkuk, which “has been dedicated to train children to take up arms”.
The official explained that “the camp had organised successive courses and unremitting training of children”, including assasinations.
Around 210 minors aged between 9 and 18 are currently being trained in the camp.
“The course teaches children how to carry and use various weapons. They are taught to carry out assassinations and are also trained in street fighting,” the official said.
Local Shia militia leaders are training the children, the official added.
“The camp is not limited to military exercises, but clerics loyal to Hashd al-Shaabi have also been ideologically radicalising the children. They are forced into sermons which brainwash the children with extremist discourses.”
Kirkuk residents fear it will inflame sectarianism in the province.
Kirkuk has been a flashpoint for tensions between the Kurdish government which claims the city and Shia militias who have moved north following the campaign against the Islamic State group.
The area is rich in oil, with Shia militias threatening to take the city.
Fears of all-out-war between Kurdish and Iraqi Shia militias once IS have been defeated have been raised by analysts.