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Crisis Childhood

Sold out to ISIS: Filipino child soldiers

Jaffar and Abdullah are only teenagers, but they’ve already been to war, fighting alongside ISIS-allied militants in the southern Philippines.

Philippino Child Soldiers recruited by Abu Sayyaf group
The ISIS associated Abu Sayyaf group doesn’t just take on adult fighters, it also recruits child-soldiers.

It wasn’t their choice. The teens were sold by their relatives to the Abu Sayyaf extremist group.

ISIS child soldiers in the Philippines
“I was meant to kill,” says 14-year-old Jaffar, sold to terrorists by his own father for just under $450.

The jihadists seek out young boys as recruits, offering their impoverished parents as little as $500 in exchange. Boys like Jaffar and Abdullah are sent to training camps for physical training and to learn how to use weapons. They were prepared to engage in combat, be used as human shields and suicide bombers, or serve as organ donors for wounded fighters.

At 17, Abdullah ended up in an ISIS training camp after being sold by his uncle to militants, along with his cousin.

An RTD crew journeyed to the Philippines a year after the devastating conflict between the Islamic insurgents and government forces in the city of Marawi. The teens, who managed to run away amid the mayhem, relive their memories and describe the trauma they’ve gone through.