December 14, 2015 – Children as young as two years old are being trained at camps in Syria and Kazakhstan to become the next generation of terrorists, according to Malaysian police.
The camps were possibly set up three years ago, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, a senior counter-terrorism official, said during a seminar in Kuala Lumpur.
He showed a video of children receiving military training and swearing allegiance to Islamic State and its leader.
“The children are just beginning to walk and they are being taught to use firearms. Imagine how their children are being brought up. Ten to 15 year-olds. Their psychological approach is strong,” he said.
One child was heard speaking Bahasa Indonesia and Mr Ayob said the language was being used to reach out to those from Southeast Asia.
The development is worrying, according to Prof Greg Barton, the Chair in Global Islamic Politics at Deakin University, and a sign of the extent of the threat posed by Islamic State.
“It’s not surprising but it’s worrying to have these confirmations. It’s sickening to think about what’s happening to these young lives, how many years they’re going to be troubled and how this is going to trickle down possibly through generations,” he said.
“Children radicalised at this age are going to be, at the very least, traumatised throughout their lives. These are going to be deeply radicalised individuals and if they survive, they are going to be very effective doing their grim business. We’ve seen this with child militias in the past.
Some 500 children from all over the world are being trained at the camps, Mr Ayob said, adding that there were concerns that similar camps could be set up in Malaysia.
He said there was a high probability that there were Malaysian children at the camps, despite police not having any specific intelligence on the numbers involved.
Prof Barton argued that Southeast Asia was a realistic target for the militant group. “In one sense, IS doesn’t need Southeast Asia but in another sense, it has this global vision and that includes East China and includes China,” he said.
“It’s important for IS to say that the whole world is on its side and it’s important that the most populous Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia, is involved, it’s important that Muslim Southeast Asia in general is involved, for its symbolic value, for its claim to be the caliphate.
“It speaks to the need to try and stop Islamic State and reverse it because if it carries on the damage will be extensive, it will be global and it will be profound.”