AFRIN, SYRIA/WASHINGTON, D.C. —
Islamic State allegedly has been using child suicide bombers to target opponents in the Syrian civil war, officials and activists in Syria say.
Kurdish military officials this week in the region of Afrin in northern Syria captured two children who say they were trying to detonate themselves in a residential area.
"Their [IS] goal was for the children to be killed by our forces at a checkpoint," said Piran Shirwan, an official of the local Kurdish security agency.
The two children wore explosive belts that were hidden under IS military uniforms. They were stopped at a Kurdish checkpoint outside the city of Afrin before they were able to blow themselves up, the official told VOA.
"A guy named Ibrahim convinced us to join Daesh [IS]," one of the boys told VOA. He said he was from the central Syrian province of Hama, 150 kilometers from Afrin. Authorities said he was 11 years old.
His 10-year-old companion told VOA that they were armed and trained for conducting a suicide attack.
WATCH: Kurds Capture IS-trained Would-be Child Suicide Bombers
"We were given military uniforms and suicide belts," said the 10-year-old boy, who also is from Hama. "They ordered us to ride a bus and head to the Kurdish region."
VOA is not using their names or showing their faces because they are minors and have yet to be charged with any crimes. Kurdish officials are investigating.
IS dispatched at least 10 more child suicide bombers in areas under control of the Syrian opposition, according to the children and local news reports.
Since 2014, IS allegedly has used child suicide bombers throughout the areas it controls in Syria and Iraq. Recently, however, more children are being recruited in areas that are not controlled by IS to carry out suicide attacks, according to local activists in the region.
"Daesh has sleeper cells everywhere," said a well-known activist in Kafranbel, in the northwestern province of Idlib. The man spoke on condition of anonymity because he lives in an area controlled by the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria.
He told VOA that there have been attempts by IS underground recruiters to mobilize local children in his town to join the group.
"They indoctrinate them secretly and activate them whenever they feel weak," he said in a phone interview.
The two children who are now in Kurdish custody are set to be freed after their investigations are finalized.
"These are children, so we can't keep them here," said Shirwan, the Kurdish security official. "We have contacted their families to come and get them."