The Islamic State is moulding Syrian and Iraqi children into a new generation of militants, reports the BBC.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that more than 50 children under the age of 16 had died fighting for IS so far in 2015, while 19 were used as suicide bombers.
Residents of Raqqa said children were indoctrinated in training camps and taught how to behead another human by practising on dolls.
Some children have reportedly been paid salaries of up to $400 a month, which has persuaded some poverty-stricken parents to send their children to fight.
Romeo Dallaire, founder of the Child Soldiers Initiative, said refugees were especially vulnerable.
“Trying to talk to young people who have absolutely no hope, no school, just aimlessly waiting in very difficult living conditions … when people get through to them and say, ‘You might as well cross the border and come and fight’. Even 13-year-olds are attracted by that,” he told the BBC.
Meanwhile, children from ethnic and religious minorities, such as Christians and Yazidis, have reportedly been kidnapped and forced to join IS. (As World Watch Monitor has reported, this strategy has also been used by Boko Haram in Nigeria since 1999).
In the summer of 2014, a three-year-old Christian girl was abducted when IS militants overran the town of Qaraqosh. Christina Khader Abada has neither been seen, nor heard from, since.
IS is “engaging in child abuse on an industrial scale,” said the US Army’s Lt-Gen H R McMaster. “They brutalise and systematically dehumanise the young populations. This is going to be a multigenerational problem.”