The study, undertaken over a 13 month-period by researchers from Georgia State University, examined the death notices of 89 children and youths on Twitter and the encrypted communications app Telegram.
Findings show that the death rate of ISIS youth in January this year doubled compared to the same time last year. 39 percent of under-18-year olds were used to drive explosive-laden vehicles at the enemy, while 33 percent died as foot soldiers. A further 18 percent died in skirmishes before killing themselves by detonating suicide belts, according to the study.
“It seems plausible that, as military pressure against the Islamic State has increased in recent months, such operations… are becoming more tactically attractive,” the study noted.
“We can expect that, as their implementation increases, so too will the reported rate of child and youth deaths.”
However, the militant group’s use of children may not be out of desperation or a struggle to fill out the ranks.
Rather, “children are fighting alongside, rather than in lieu of, adult males,” according to the study.
Data showed that most of the children who died on an ISIS mission were either Iraqi or Syrian, while half died in Iraq.
ISIS propaganda did not appear to single out the children as youthful heroes. “The actual age of the martyr is never mentioned, even in passing,” according to the report. “To the Islamic State’s propagandists, the youth of the martyr is incidental.”