KIRKUK, Iraq, April 21 (UPI) -- Iraqi forces arrested four children, all under 14, who are allegdly linked to al-Qaida and training to become suicide bombers, an Iraqi general said.
The children, detained near Kirkuk, were part of a cell known as the "Birds of Paradise," and were being trained to avoid detection as they carried out their attacks, The Times of London reported Tuesday.
"Special forces units have arrested an organization of children consisting of four individuals under the age of 14 who call themselves the 'Birds of Paradise'," said Gen. Abdelamir al-Zaidi, Iraqi army division commander in Kirkuk. "The group relies on children and is connected to al-Qaida. It works to recruit children and young people to carry out suicide attacks and to aid the terrorist groups in detonating roadside bombs."
Al-Qaida militants have used Iraqi children previously in attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces, the British newspaper said. Militants also have been accused of using mentally ill women as suicide bombers.
Other insurgent groups have used children to fire rocket-propelled grenades and detonate roadside bombs, officials said.
Officials said the cell appears to have derived its name from the Islamic belief that children become birds of paradise when they die.