June 7, 2009 in Nation/World

Iraqi youths being recruited for attacks

Kim Gamel Associated Press
 

BAGHDAD – Teenagers armed with grenades and suicide vests are the latest recruits for Sunni insurgents trying to find new ways to outwit heightened security measures and attack American and Iraqi forces, the U.S. military said Saturday.

The use of boys also serves a propaganda purpose – the soldiers face criticism for harming children if they fire back.

Insurgents first turned to women to carry out suicide bombings, causing U.S. and Iraqi troops to step up recruiting and training of female searchers at checkpoints to seek explosives easily hidden under women’s billowing black robes.

Now they appear to be using youths and weapons that are easier to hide like grenades as they face omnipresent checkpoints and convoys aimed at bolstering security gains that have caused the level of violence to plummet nationwide.

“With grenade attacks, insurgents hope to capitalize on reports of civilian injuries blamed on a coalition response to the attack,” said Maj. Derrick Cheng, a spokesman for U.S. forces in northern Iraq. “However, the reality is that the grenade explosion itself causes the majority of civilian casualties.”

The military has said in the past it believes al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgent groups are recruiting children because of their ability to avoid scrutiny.

But a statement issued Saturday was the first to provide detailed allegations of teenage suspects in what the military called “a growing trend of children carrying out attacks on Iraqi security and U.S. forces.”

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