BAGHDAD — A U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday that Iraqi insurgents are increasingly relying on women and teenagers to undertake suicide attacks, and he released two videos that he said showed how insurgents have drawn children into their circle.
One video showed footage of boys in black masks learning terrorist tactics. The other showed a boy being rescued from his kidnappers, apparently filmed by an Iraqi or American soldier.
Rear Adm. Gregory Smith stopped short of calling the use of women and children in attacks a trend. But he said recent high-profile attacks, including the double bombing last Friday of two pet markets in Baghdad, have drawn new attention to the tactic. Friday's coordinated attacks were carried out by 15-year-old girls with Down syndrome, according to Iraqi officials. At least 99 people were killed.
Smith blamed al Qaida in Iraq, a largely Sunni Muslim group whose affiliation with the al Qaida of Osama bin Laden is uncertain, for using children in attacks.
He said the group "wants to poison the next-generation Iraqis and hopes to continue the cycle of violence they have brought upon Iraq."
Among recent incidents Smith cited was a Jan. 20 attack when a boy offered a box of candy to the leader of a U.S.-allied militia group before detonating himself and killing the man.
Smith said that in the last year, 10 women have undertaken suicide missions.
The spokesman for Iraq's defense ministry, Mohammed al Askari, said investigators have confirmed with residents of the area that the two girls who carried out last Friday's bombings had Down syndrome.
He declined to identify them, but he said he believed police had contacted their families.
The footage of young boys apparently undergoing training for terrorist attacks was discovered during a raid on suspected insurgents in early December in northeastern Baghdad, Smith said.
The video shows preteen boys wearing navy blue soccer jerseys and dark-colored athletic pants. Black masks cover their faces, and guns too large for some of them are draped over their bodies.
In one clip, they surround a man on a bicycle. One yells for the man to get down on the ground, but another child yells at him to stand up.
In another scene, with adults looking on, they force a driver to his knees at pistol point. A child stands nearby with a grenade in his hand.
In yet another, the boys storm a house and take people captive, shouting, "God is great!"
Smith also showed a picture from a different captured video showing a boy no older than 10 smiling and wearing a suicide vest. He couldn't say with certainty that al Qaida is training young boys as suicide bombers, but said, "We have seen evidence of it."
Smith said U.S. officials believe the footage was to be used in a propaganda film. He said that a few days after the video was captured, another raid turned up a proposal for a movie depicting children training to be terrorists.
The other video, which appeared to have been filmed with a camera attached to a soldier's helmet, showed a raid on a house in the Kirkuk area of northern Iraq. Inside, soldiers found an 11-year-old boy and returned him to his parents. The kidnappers had demanded $100,000 for the release of a boy.
ON THE WEB