MOSCOW, October 1 (RIA Novosti) — As the number of foreigners joining the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq grows, a startling trend of teens joining the jihadists has swept western countries.
While the US State Department estimates some 12,000 foreigners from over 50 countries are fighting alongside IS militants in the Middle East, Belgium security services said some 4,000 to 5,000 European teenagers have flocked to Syria as well. Research by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence in London claimed one in five foreign fighters in Syria were from western Europe. Most fighters hail from France followed by Britain, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands though Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Austria have also reported a surge in radicalization. Some 130 Canadians and over 100 Americans are believed by their respective governments to be fighting for the IS.
Both girls and boys as young as 13 years old are being recruited by the IS, a Sunni extremist group conquering territories in Syria and Iraq, through social media purporting jihadi propaganda. Photos and videos on various social networking sites featuring teens training, fighting, and performing daily tasks in Syria has created a deceitful picture of life among the IS. While boys are lured through combat and weaponry, girls are mostly encouraged to marry jihadists and raise their families as the future generation of Islam. Females make up some 10 percent of those recruited from abroad, 25 percent of which are from France, according to the Guardian.
THE UNITED KINGDOM
The most recent reported case of a teenager headed towards Syria, concerns a 15-year-old British girl from Bristol. The teenager was last seen one week ago at school and allegedly met up with another teen to make their way to Syria. Detectives investigating the case claim the missing girl who is currently known to be in Turkey, "may have been radicalized," according to the Independent. Authorities plan to stop the girls from crossing the border into Syria.
If the teen is, in fact, headed towards Syria, she would join a slew of British women joining the extremist group including 16-year-old twin sisters Zahra and Salma Halane, from Manchester who made their way to the IS through Turkey in July.
Some 130 Austrians are suspected of joining the IS in Syria according to the country's government.
"Don't look for us. We will serve Allah, and we will die for him," were their parting words of Samra Kesinovic, 16-years-old, and her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15-years-old, who made the trip to Syria from Vienna in April of this year, according to the NY Daily News.
The pair of friends allegedly married two Chechen fighters in Syria and according to internet posts are reportedly pregnant. However, Austrian authorities believe the news could be a propaganda tactic. Austrian police believe both of the girls' social networking accounts are being used by IS militants for recruiting and propaganda purposes.
Since the incident, Austrian officials have reported a series of copycat incidents and estimate some 14 Austrian women and girls are fighting in the Middle East. The country has reacted to the event by establishing an organization meant to de-radicalize young Muslims in the country.
Belgium currently has the highest proportion of extremists fighting for IS based on its population and was the home of the youngest foreign fighter to join the IS, 13-year-old Younes Abaaoud. The boy, who now goes by the alias Abou Omar Soussi, moved to Syria earlier this year with his older brother who was allegedly brainwashed by extremists in Belgium.
According to the International Business Times, a photograph of the young recruit first surfaced online via twitter from Shiraz Maher, an academic and senior fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) at King's College, London, who wrote, "One of the youngest foreign fighters we know of Younes Abaaoud, who was 13 when he left Belgium to join Isis."
The photo showed the young boy clutching an AK-47.
According to an analysis by Business Insider, over 300 young people have joined the IS from Belgium for reasons surrounding the country's low integration rate of Muslims.
Nora el-Bathy, a 15-year-old from Avignon ran away from home last January and joined IS fighters in Syria.
"She had a second Facebook account on which she spoke of making hijra [going to live in an Islamic country], and a second mobile phone to call the "sisters"," the girl's brother Fouad el-Bathy was quoted as saying by the Guardian.
After running away, the girl called her parents to tell them she was in Syria and did not want to return to France. Later, her parents received a startling phone call from two men speaking Arabic and French asking for permission to marry their daughter.
Despite repeated phonecalls and messages claiming the girl was staying in Syria by choice, her brother discovered the truth. According to the Guardian, Fouad el-Bathy found his sister in Syria and claimed that she had told him, "I've made the biggest mistake of my life."
The girl was reportedly thin, sick, and brainwashed by the extremists. The el-Bathy family is currently taking legal action for their daughter's kidnap.
The UNITED STATES
A 19-year-old American girl, Shannon Connley planned to marry an IS member, but was first encouraged by her husband-to-be to receive military training to help fighters on the Syrian battlefield, the Guardian reported. Connley attended a US army Explorers cadet training camp in February before her flight in March. Yousr Mouelhi, the man Connley was planning to marry, had made all of the teen's traveling plans to Syria however the young woman was arrested in the Denver airport in April before boarding her plane. Connley admitted to FBI agents that she had trained with the Army Explorers to aid the IS in pursuing "legitimate targets of attack" including military bases, public officials, and government employees. The young woman could face up to five years in a US prison and a $250,000 fine.
The IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been fighting against Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, the group extended its attacks to northern and western Iraq, declaring a caliphate on the territories over which it had control.
Earlier in September, US President Barack Obama unveiled his strategy against the IS which includes the establishment of an international coalition. Since then, Washington has carried out a number of airstrikes against IS positions in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have reportedly taken part in the most recent attacks.