BEIRUT (Reuters) - A child soldier recruited by Islamic State apparently has beheaded a Syrian army officer, the first such documented decapitation, the founder of a group monitoring the Syrian conflict said on Friday.
The child is among several hundred so-called "Cubs of the Caliphate". They are children, ranging in age from pre-teens to mid-teens, given military training and hardline indoctrination after being recruited near schools, mosques and in public areas where Islamic State is operating.
Images released by the militant group's Homs province in central Syria showed a child, apparently a pre-teen, in a camouflage uniform, holding a human head and a blood-stained knife.
The Syrian officer was captured by the militant group after it took control last May of Palmyra, a site of Roman ruins east of the city of Homs, according to Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head, who received a copy of the video.
"This is the first such case of a beheading by a child," Rahman said.
Islamic State has beheaded or shot dead Syrian civilians, combatants, foreign aid workers and journalists. Videos it has released in the past released videos appeared to show children watching or participating in some of the killings.
Separately, Syrian army sources said a senior army commander, General Muhsen Makhlouf, was killed in an Islamic State ambush on Thursday in the desert around Palmyra, where the Syrian army was launching an assault to regain the town.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Additional reporting by Naline Malla