BEIRUT - Militant Islamist groups in Syria are recruiting children as young as 15 and sending them into battle after promising them a free education, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Monday. The report said the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which has made rapid territorial gains across the border in Iraq, had given children weapons training in Syria and told them to carry out suicide bombings.
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Citing personal accounts, the rights group also found evidence of children being mobilized by the more moderate Western-backed Free Syrian Army, the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, the Islamic Front coalition and security forces in Kurdish-controlled areas. "The horrors of Syria's armed conflict are only made worse by throwing children into the front lines," said Priyanka Motaparthy, the author of the report which drew on the accounts of 25 children. The children said they had fought in battles, acted as snipers, manned checkpoints, treated the wounded on battlefields, and brought supplies to front lines, the report said. NBC News could not independently confirm the accounts.
First published June 23 2014, 4:30 AM