Small Wars Journal

The 10,000 Kidnapped Boys of Boko Haram

Sat, 08/13/2016 - 2:58am

The 10,000 Kidnapped Boys of Boko Haram by Drew Hinshaw and Joe Parkinson, photographs by Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin, Wall Street Journal

… While the world focused on Boko Haram’s mass kidnappings of women and girls, the Islamist group was stealing an even greater number of boys. Over the past three years, Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 10,000 boys and trained them in boot camps in abandoned villages and forest hide-outs, according to government officials in Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, and to Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group.

Child soldiering was a big problem in various collapsing states in the 1990s, including some in Africa. What is happening here in northeastern Nigeria is part of a disturbing rise in child jihadism. Young boys and at times girls are being indoctrinated into violent fundamentalism and used as fighters, suicide bombers and spies.

Something similar is happening in other countries battling Islamist insurrections. Commanders of al Qaeda’s branches in Yemen, Somalia and Mali have deployed youngsters. Islamic State has used children in combat, suicide bombings and in execution videos in Iraq and Syria.

Interviews with 16 young Nigerians who escaped from Boko Haram captivity and with other witnesses, soldiers, researchers, officials and diplomats in Nigeria and Cameroon provide a picture of the harrowing life endured by the children who wage jihad…

Read on.