BY CALEB WEISS
Photos released by social media accounts linked to the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), a Chinese Uighur jihadist group that is part of al Qaeda’s international network, show the group training children in Syria. The photos are unconfirmed and undated, but the TIP is known to operate training camps for children in northwestern Syria.
The three photos show children, many of which are Uighur, attending a Sharia school ran by the group and participating in weapons training. Last September, the TIP released a video showing the training of what it called “little jihadists.” The children are shown posing with AK-47 assault rifles, attending Sharia classes, and partaking in weapons training. In July, the group first publicized a training camp in Idlib, which appears to be in the same area. Several of those photos depict the children learning how to operate AK-47s, sub-machine guns, and handguns. (See LWJ report, Uighur jihadist group in Syria advertises ‘little jihadists’.)
The TIP is not the only foreign al Qaeda ally in Syria known to train children. In December, the Imam Bukhari Jamaat (also known as Katibat Imam Bukhari), an Uzbek group in Syria loyal to the Taliban, released an 18-minute video showing the group training dozens of children. The children, who range from under 10 to mid-teens, are seen taking part in physical exercises and lessons on how to handle and fire weapons. (See LWJ report, Uzbek group in Syria trains children for jihad.)
The popular Saudi cleric Abdullah al Muhaysini’s Jihad Callers Center also released a video last September showing native Syrian children training at a camp ran by the group. Muhaysini is closely tied to al Qaeda and the Al Nusrah Front. Additionally, the Chechen-led Junud al Sham, led by US-designated terrorist Muslim Shishani, is known to have ran training camps for children in the past. The Islamic State, which gets most of the media attention on its training of children, has also published several videos from many of its proclaimed provinces showing its “cubs” being trained for jihad.
Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.