He is 11-years-old, has an AK-47 and he wants to kill Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad.
Schoolboy Mohammed Afar, who lives in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, is not much taller than the assault rifle he carries, along with live ammunition and a walkie-talkie.
He sports a jacket marked with the badges of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and he is a crack shot. And he has the country’s leader in his sights.
“I want to stay as a fighter until Bashar is killed,” he told vice.com.
“He is a great shot,” says his father, Mohammed Saleh Afar. “He is my little lion.”
During the civil war between the al-Assad regime and rebel FSA forces, Syria’s children have endured numerous abuses.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, some opposition groups fighting in Syria “are using children for combat and other military purposes,” reports vice.com.
“Even when children volunteer to fight, commanders have a responsibility to protect them by turning them away,” said children’s researcher, Priyanka Motaparthy, in the report.
“Children are easily influenced by older relatives and friends, but their participation in armed hostilities places them in grave danger of being killed, permanently disabled, or severely traumatised.”
Mohammed is respected by the older fighters around him, some of whom are only children themselves and call him a “good shot”. He demonstrates great skill with his rifle, calmly removing the gun’s magazine before reinserting it.
He says he admires the fighters from the local hard-line Islamic group, Jabhat al-Nusra.
“They [Jabhat al-Nusra] know Islam and Sharia. They know what it means to be a Muslim,” Mohammed says.
“When my father goes to the frontline, he takes me with him. He says to be careful and we find a safe place to shoot from.”
Mohammed’s father sees little wrong with his son’s participation.
“I put my trust in God,” he says.
The other members of the unit agree. The 11-year-old is kept safe, they claim, and never taken to front lines that are too dangerous.
“There are other boys fighting too,” Mohammed says. “Some, but not much.”