Story highlights

First database of ISIS child soldiers exposes tactics of terror leaders

Most of the children are from Syria, and were killed in Iraq, a new report says

It's estimated there are 1,500 child soldiers fighting in ISIS ranks

CNN  — 

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in February 2016.

Eleven-year-old Abu Imara al Omri kneels down to kiss his father’s hand; a final blessing before the boy blows himself up in a truck full of explosives.

The disturbing goodbye was captured in a series of ISIS propaganda photos last month.

Supporters of the terror group claim the boy was used to help take the village of Ghazl near Aleppo, Syria. CNN cannot verify either the authenticity of the video nor the fate of the boy.

The use of child soldiers far predates ISIS, but what concerns researchers and policymakers is that ISIS’ use of boys and girls does not follow the trends of previous conflicts.

This ISIS propaganda photo shows child soldier Abu Imara al Omri before he blew himself up

ISIS does not use those under 18 because they provide specific technical advantage in combat or because they are short of fighters. Child soldiers are seemingly treated no differently than adult soldiers, according to a new study published Friday in the CTC Sentinel.

What this means in the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate is there simply is no sanctity accorded to childhood.

Mapping ISIS attacks around the world

That soldier could be a just a child

Researchers say that sad fact could not only have implications on the battlefield, as the chance for military encounters between coalition-backed forces and ISIS child fighters increases.

The findings also show that eliminating ISIS will be much more complicated than killing its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or disarming his fighters. There’s the question of what to do about potentially thousands of indoctrinated children left behind.