Uzbek group in Syria trains children for jihad

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Children showing the Imam Bukhari Jamaat’s flag after climbing a wall

An Uzbek jihadist group based in Syria is publicizing the training of children to wage jihad.

The Imam Bukhari Jamaat (also known as Katibat Imam al Bukhari) released a video online which shows a training camp and school for the group’s children. No release date was given for the video, but it was uploaded on Dec. 19, 2015.

The 18-minute long video shows dozens of children receiving schooling and military training somewhere in northern Syria. The children, who range from under 10-years-old to mid-teens, are seen reading the Koran, learning Arabic, practicing mathematics, and learning Sharia from teachers and Imams of the jihadist group. The children are then shown partaking in physical exercises, including running and mock boxing matches.

In addition to the physical exercises, the children are also taught how to handle and fire weapons. The weapons include handguns and variants of the Kalashnikov assault rifle. Most of the kids appear to be Central Asian of origin, although it is likely that some native Syrian children were present during the training.

The Imam Bukhari Jamaat is a predominately Uzbek group which is allied to al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front. The Jamaat has fought alongside Al Nusrah and other jihadist groups during many of the major battles in the northwestern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib and most recently fought alongside Al Nusrah’s Uzbek battalion, the Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, in Bashkuy in northern Aleppo.

The Uzbek group is not the only foreign Al Qaeda ally to have showcased training children.

In September, the Turkistan Islamic Party, a predominantly Uighur jihadist group, 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 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 has also published several videos from many of its proclaimed provinces showing its “cubs” being trained for jihad.

Jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan have also advertised their training camps for children. In 2008, the former commander of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s suicide operations, Qari Hussein Mehsud, promoted a camp for children situated in South Waziristan. The Turkistan Islamic Party also highlighted one of its camps for children thought to be located in Pakistan or Afghanistan (the TIP flew the Afghan Taliban’s flag in the video).

Photos from the Imam Bukhari Jamaat video:

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Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

2 Comments

  • Rock says:

    And this is why I am against any immigration from Syria. Little terrorists ready willing and able to kill.

  • PJH says:

    I reviewed a video done by the IMU a few years ago showing young men training at a school in Pakistan. All of the children where the sons of martyrs who had been killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There was a lot of video time spent detailing the medical care the kids got (the doctor was a local quack), the good food, the camaraderie, religion and training for jihad. The boys were laughing, smiling, and working hard. They were all rosy-cheeked and smiling. I assessed that the video was targeted towards married men who may have been contemplating jihad but feared what would become of their children if they were martyred. The message is that the sons of martyrs are WELL taken care of and will be raised to follow in their father’s footsteps.

    I wondered… For the poor Central Asian Peasant who has nothing but dirt to eat for supper each night, he may start to believe that his sons would be better if he (the dad) were dead so his boys could have the benefits of that school. Very powerful images.

    Of course, I never saw what happened to the little girls of martyrs. Only the sons apparently get this kind of treatment. I was taught once that you can measure the moral quality of a civilization by how they treat their women.

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