Mosul may be liberated from ISIS, but the group’s brutal rule is still felt by the city’s youngest citizens. Thousands of children came of age under ISIS control, and many were recruited to fight, kill and die for the Islamic state. After Mosul’s liberation, many “cubs of the Caliphate” were arrested and sent to prisons meant to “rehabilitate them.” Special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports.
Mosul may be liberated from ISIS, but the fear on its streets is palpable. As some of its almost one million citizens begin to return home, the issue on everyone’s mind is the possibility of a resurgent ISIS.
Throughout the nine-month battle, Kurdish and Iraqi officials tried to root out ISIS fighters and sympathizers, screening and detaining thousands from the mass of people who fled the city. Many of those detained were children, and some were what ISIS called their Cubs of the Caliphate, seen here in this propaganda footage.
ISIS made the recruitment of children for military purposes routine, sending children as young as 4 years old to training camps, where they would learn to fight, kill, and even die for the Islamic State.
One of those kids was 16-year-old Mahmoud. He was just 13 when ISIS came to his village. He says ISIS fighters picked him up from a neighborhood mosque and took him to a training camp, where he was kept for 45 days.
Mahmoud says the camp was deep in the desert, where children from Turkey, Iraq, even the United States were put through a boot camp, which included weapons training and target practice.
Punishments were severe, and the indoctrination was so intense that he says some of the boys even volunteered to be suicide bombers.
After 45 days, ISIS gave the campers a break in their training. Once home, he says his family forbade him from going back, sending him to a relative’s house to hide.
He was then sent to one of several jails just south of Mosul, where photography is now strictly forbidden, but these images surfaced a few months ago.
He says the beatings stopped, but that the conditions remained unbearable. We went to one of those jails and were allowed to speak to 17-year-old Mohammed. He was just 14 when he joined ISIS, or Da’esh, as it’s also known.
He had only been at the camp for two days when he lost his leg in an airstrike.