KIRKUK, Iraq (June 6, 2008) — A teenage boy was seen throwing a grenade at a combined patrol of Iraqi police and U.S. Soldiers, June 4, in the town of Hawijah, approximately 30 kilometers west of Kirkuk City in northern Iraq. The grenade failed to detonate, and the suspect fled into the mix of local shops, but the incident is part of a growing trend of children carrying out attacks on Iraqi security and U.S. forces in the province.Maj. Warren Sponsler, the operations officer for 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based near Hawijah, says he believes teenagers are being recruited by insurgents to commit the attacks.
Days earlier, a 15-year-old boy was apprehended, after throwing a grenade at a combined team of Iraqi police and U.S. Soldiers on patrol in Hawijah. The grenade detonated against one U.S. vehicle. No one was injured and minor damage to one vehicle was reported.
The same unit reported that a boy between the ages of 14 to 16 threw a grenade at a combined convoy of Hawijah IPs and Soldiers from 1-8 Cavalry, May 26. No one was injured nor was there any damage reported in the attack.
In Kirkuk City, a boy – possibly as young as 14 – was the driver of a vehicle used in a suicide car bombing that killed five Iraqi policemen, wounded five others and also wounded 11 civilian bystanders, according to Kirkuk police, May 12.
Also in Kirkuk City, a 19-year-old would-be suicide bomber was detained by Iraqi police while attempting to detonate a suicide vest in a Shia Mosque, May 1. According to Iraqi police, he confessed to have been fighting insurgents in Iraq three years by the time of his arrest.
“To endanger children with acts of terrorism is despicable,” said Lt. Col. Hugh McNeely, the deputy commander of 2nd BCT, 1st Cavalry. “But when terrorists actively recruit them to risk their lives for goals that the child probably doesn’t even understand is evil. There’s just no other way to say it.”
Four members of a group known to recruit young children because of the reduced scrutiny they encounter from security officials, were arrested April 14, in Kirkuk by soldiers from the 12th Iraqi army Division for suspected insurgent activities, according to Maj. Charles Assadourian, the intelligence officer for 2nd BCT, 1st Cavalry.
Assadourian said the youths were being trained to avoid detection while carrying out insurgent activities and were being taught to become suicide bombers.
Terrorist groups are capitalizing on the fact that children do not draw as much attention and Soldiers do not want to harm them, according to Chief Warrant Officer Two Michael Hyatt, the 2nd BCT 1st Cavalry fusion chief. Children that are hurt while carrying out insurgent activities are also being used in propaganda campaigns by terrorists depicting them as martyrs.