The Nigerian Islamist group, Boko Haram has released new propaganda images showing child soldiers undergoing religious and combat training in a camp believed to be in North-eastern Nigeria.
The images show recruited child soldiers carrying balaclava and participating in martial arts training, weapon handling training, and religious education class.
Last year, VOA News reported that Boko Haram was recruiting children as soldiers who can be used as suicide bombers.
Officials with the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a regional military alliance fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, told the news agency that the recruitment of child soldiers “is the latest in a retinue of brutal and inhuman tactics deployed by Boko Haram” since it began its insurgency a decade ago.
When Boko Haram started, it was a largely peaceful movement that wanted to replace Nigeria’s secular constitution with its hardline interpretation of Sharia law.
The group argued that the rampant corruption and poverty suffered by Nigerians was a result of Western education and proposed replacing it with an Islamic-style educational system.
Then in 2009, the group’s founder and leader, Muhammad Yusuf was captured and later killed in police custody.
Since 2009 the group has become more ruthless under its new leader Abubakar Shekau. One study estimates over 14 million Nigerians have been directly affected by Boko Haram’s insurgency in the past decade.
The study also said 13,000 churches were razed, 1,500 schools shut, and 611 teachers have been killed by the terrorists so far.
Nigerian officials are also concerned that the group is also infiltrating other criminal gangs across the country. Fulani herdsmen who have been finding it difficult to find grazing lands for their cattle are increasingly turning to banditry and other forms of criminality.
In December, while President Muhammadu Buhari was on vacation in Katsina state, gunmen took more than 300 boys from a secondary school in Kankara, some reports claimed that Boko Haram, which operates hundreds of miles away in the north-east, was behind the attack.
The claims were later disputed and the boys released after negotiations.