The head of a locally organized pro-US paramilitary force north of Baghdad has alleged that children as young as 14 have been recruited by "secret cells" linked to the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization to carry out suicide bombings in his area, according to media reports in Arabic.
Imad Sa'id Jasim, head of the Tarmiya Support Council, as the US-backed irregular force is known in the area, said that the al-Qa'ida organization had begun to enlist children aged 14 to 16 to undertake suicide bombing operations in Tarmiya, in an interview with the US-funded Radio Sawa agency.
Tarmiya is located in Salah al-Din province, north of the Iraqi capital.
Jasim told Radio Sawa that a recent suicide operation that targeted a group of the pro-US support forces and policemen in the Tarmiya area was conducted by a boy of 16 years of age, the broadcaster reports in Arabic.
The council leader added that the teen belonged to a "secret cell" linked to al-Qa'ida in the area that had enlisted children and teenagers as soldiers in areas north of Baghdad.
Jasim also reportedly confirmed the arrest of a person named Jamal al-Halabawasi who worked in a cell to recruit children to undertake suicide missions against the police and Iraqi Sahwa forces.
In other child-related news, in a statement released yesterday, IRIN, the media outlet of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, called attention to recent figures issued by New York-based Human Rights Watch, which said that as of May 12, US forces hold 513 Iraqi children classified as "imperative threats to security."
Rights groups say that the detainee children, held at US-run facilities of Camp Cropper in Baghdad and Camp Bucca at Basra, "are not provided with lawyers, do not attend the one-week or one-month detention reviews and have very limited contact with their families," IRIN writes.
"US forces in Iraq should ensure that children into custody are treated according to their status as children and given prompt judicial review and access to independent monitors," HRW said.