By CHINEDU ASADU, Associated Press
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — An Islamic State-linked extremist group accused of killing hundreds in northeast Nigeria has released a video purporting to show child soldiers executing two men identified as members of the Nigerian military.
The video released by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) was published on Tuesday by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi activity.
It showed a man in Nigerian army uniform who said he was with the army special forces being shot twice in the head by a boy of about 12. Shortly after, another soldier who said he was captured in April 2021 was shot in the head by one of the three masked fighters behind him.
A Nigerian military spokesperson did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment on the video, which security analysts told The Associated Press appears to have been shot near the Lake Chad basin, the stronghold of the extremist group.
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Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, told AP Thursday that ISIS is now “more desperate than ever to keep its name in the global discussion … given the fact that it no longer has a physical ‘caliphate’ outside of relatively small bases in different countries.”
The video, she said, “demonstrates the immense focus ISIS is placing on Africa” and puts a “spotlight on Nigeria as one of its strongholds and projecting itself as an adaptive, enduring force to the world.”
The 27-minute video also shows child fighters training in open fields and classrooms. In one scene, masked fighters who looked as young as 10 are seen in a classroom as an older scholar takes them through the Islamic State’s teachings and doctrines. In another scene, the fighters are seen training with rifles.
The development is yet another sign that the IS-linked group remains a threat in the northeastern part of Africa’s most populous country despite the Nigerian military’s repeated claims of successes in the war against an insurgency that has lasted more than a decade in northeast Nigeria and Lake Chad basin.
The extremist rebels have released footage of child soldiers training in the past too.
The U.N. children’s agency estimates that globally, more than 93,000 children were recruited and used in conflicts between 2005 and 2020.
ISWAP split from the Boko Haram group in 2016 but the groups remain united in an insurgency against the Nigerian government that has expanded to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
The video confirms that ISWAP “has enough freedom in the Lake Chad area to keep a small, but permanent training camp for a future generation of insurgents,’ said Tomasz Rolbiecki, an analyst at the security firm ExTrac, who has been studying the situation in the Lake Chad area.
“ISWAP is still a big group, with thousands of fighters, working supply chains, and capable of collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes,” said Rolbiecki. “Even if the Nigerian army was to launch massive offensives against ISWAP, it would take them years to fully contain the threat this group represents.”
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