In Photos: Inside The Al Nusra Academy Training The Next Generation Of Jihadis

From VICE:
In a classroom in northern Syria’s Aleppo province a teacher begins a lesson by saying: “Today we will learn about faith and beliefs.”

Abu Baser questions the assembled boys — all in khaki green — on the meaning of the word “faith,” before having them repeat: “The war gains belong to God and the messenger.”

This is the Lion Cubs Religious Academy, one of several schools run by al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the al Nusra Front. VICE News filmmaker Medyan Dairieh gained exclusive access to the group earlier this year, spending time with the militia’s current leadership and the younger generation being groomed to replace them.

His footage shows children singing songs with lyrics like: “Oh mother, don’t be sad, I’ve chosen the land of jihad. Wipe your tears, I only went to fight the Jews,” and “Our leader [Osama] bin Laden who scares America with the power of his faith and his PK gun.”

In unison, they later chorus together: “All the Christians and a message to America, your grave is in Syria, our Front is victorious.”…

Abu Anas — a student recently arrived from Uzbekistan — is still learning Arabic. He told VICE News that he misses his relatives in his home country, but doesn’t miss Uzbekistan itself because “they don’t approve of jihad and they call us terrorists. They’re frightened by us. They don’t want jihad. They don’t want Allah’s laws.”…

“Youths will establish a caliphate, following the prophet’s traditions, and they will carry the message of jihad,” the children’s teacher tells VICE News….

Many of the children have seen horrific acts. A boy from Idlib said: “I witnessed the Nusayris (Alawites) kill the men and slaughter the women and children.”

“There are many without any religious knowledge,” he continued. “I’ll teach them and invite them, but if they don’t listen, then I’ll use the sword.”

Abu Khatab al Maqdisi, the al Nusra Front member assigned to show VICE News around, spoke about the students with pride. “God willing we hope that these cubs will lead the nation and end the oppression,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll be a powerful generation… The guys in charge of education are doing their best and working with the available resources to raise this generation that will be leading the jihad in the future.”

While driving to the frontline at the Abu al-Duhur airbase in Idlib, al Maqdisi said: “When one sees children like these who grow up obeying God… raised correctly, who in the near future will reach an age in which they can go into training camps and hold weapons. They will be the next generation to carry the burden of jihad and lead the nation, jihad in Syria and outside, God willing. One wishes to be a child again and be with them, see?”

Back in the school, Abu Ashak said…”My father reminds me of Osama bin Laden who terrorized and fought the Americans and one day my father will be like him,” he contined [sic]. “And I want to be like Osama’s son. He spends his time preaching to people and from a young age he started learning the Quran so he became a Sheikh at a young age. That’s why it’s important to think about my future now.”…

Meanwhile, Abu Ashak’s younger brother Abu Omayer said his parents sent him to the academy. “I want to be a suicide bomber for Allah’s sake,” he said, smiling bashfully….
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