Published on Jan 31, 2014
Junior jihad: Spraying bullets from an AK-47, the four-year-old Al Qaeda fighter in Syria who should be in infants' school Video shows youngster opening fire twice to shouts of 'Allahu Akbar' He is so small the gun barrel was supported by a section of road block Alarming footage was released by a jihadist group fighting Syrian civil war Other images show children aged nine to 15 training in black ski masks UN peace talks collapsed last night and Assad government may not return
He is barely old enough to go to infant school, let alone fight in a savage civil war.
Yet this youngster, believed to be just four years old, is one of the latest 'cub jihadists' recruited for bloody battle in Syria.
He can be seen firing rounds from an automatic assault rifle in a shocking video that has emerged from the war-torn country.
Counter-terrorism officials say it is further evidence of how jihadists are grooming children to become fighters, as Al Qaeda factions strive to establish a Taliban-like Islamic state in Syria.
The disturbing footage was posted on YouTube and is believed to be that of a son of a jihadist from Albania who is one of thousands of foreigners fighting with Al Qaeda in Syria.
The youngster, who wears a black ski mask, can be seen firing shots from a black AK-47-style automatic assault rifle with a folding stock.
He is so small that the barrel of the gun has to be supported by a section of road block so that he can cope with its weight.
The child opens fire to shouts of Allahu Akbar -- Arabic for 'God is Greater' -- before an arm reaches down and retrieves the weapon.
The video emerged as French President Francois Hollande yesterday claimed as many as 700 Britons are among extremists fighting in the Syrian civil war.
Speaking at a press conference after talks with David Cameron, the president said: 'We have young people who live in our respective countries who are being manipulated, and they are going off to the combat areas.
'Today we were exchanging figures -- 600 to 700 young people are involved in each of our countries.'
That is almost double the most recent estimate by experts and comes amid 'huge concern' from security chiefs that the young jihadists will target Britain when they return from fighting in Syria.
The video of the four-year-old first emerged on January 21 on a YouTube channel operated by a jihadist who claimed to be based in northern Syria. It was entitled in Arabic: 'A message from one of the cubs of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.'
The footage was removed after it was exposed by an American-based 'anti-jihad' activist who claimed it was evidence of child abuse.
Copies of the video, however, remained in circulation on other online channels.
Suspected British Al Qaeda fighters in Syria have been circulating other images showing children being trained to use deadly weapons in a jihad training camp.
The pictures showed children aged between nine and 15 in full battle dress and wearing black ski masks bearing the distinctive logo of Al Qaeda.
Many were seen holding Kalashnikov automatic assault rifles, tripod-mounted heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
The video of the toddler emerged just days after the European Union's anti-terror coordinator warned that social media websites play a crucial role in recruiting foreign fighters to travel to Syria.
Gilles de Kerchove told the Home Affairs Select Committee that online messages, many posted by 'narcissistic youths posing with AK-47 rifles, had contributed to an acceleration in the number of Europeans, including Britons, travelling to Syria to fight -- with many falling in with extremist groups.
The issue -- which has become a key focus for the security and intelligence services -- was among topics discussed by Mr Hollande and Mr Cameron. Syria is proving a popular training ground for would-be jihadists.
Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police -- who leads the Association of Chief Police Officer's 'Prevent' strategy on counter-terrorism -- told the BBC this week there was 'huge concern' that Britons arriving back after fighting in Syria posed a threat to the UK.
Scotland Yard has also said its biggest concern is that some could return as terrorists.
In the past month, 16 people have been arrested on suspicion of terror offences after travelling between Syria and the UK.
This compares with 24 in the whole of 2013.
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