BAGHDAD (AP) — A quiet middle-class Shiite neighborhood in western Baghdad was transformed recently into a mini-boot camp, training teenagers for battle against the Islamic State group.

The Shiite boys and young men, some as young as 15, ran through its normally placid streets carrying out mock exercises for urban warfare since the toughest battles against the Sunni extremists are likely to involve street fighting. They were taught how to hold, control and aim light weapons, though they didn’t fire them.

These young fighters could have serious implications for the U.S.-led coalition, which provides billions of dollars in military and economic aid to the Iraqi government. The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 says the United States cannot provide certain forms of military support, including foreign military financing and direct commercial sales to governments that recruit and use child soldiers or support paramilitaries or militias that do.

Hundreds of students have gone through training at the dozens of such summer camps in Baghdad, Basra and other cities run by the Popular Mobilization Forces, the government-sanctioned umbrella group of mostly Shiite militias. The camps were created after the country’s top Shiite cleric issued an edict calling on students as young as middle-school age to use their school vacations to prepare for battle if they are needed.

It is impossible to say how many went on to fight IS, since those who do so go independently. But this summer, The Associated Press saw over a dozen armed boys on the front line in western Anbar province, including some as young as 10. The PMF says the training is just a precaution and that it does not deploy minors in combat, and the government says any underage fighters are isolated cases who slipped through on their own.

Of around 200 cadets in a training class visited by the AP this month, about half were under the age of 18. Several said they intended to join their fathers and older brothers on the front lines.

One 15-year-old in the class, Jaafar Osama, said he used to want to be an engineer when he grows up, but now he wants to be a fighter. His father is a volunteer fighting alongside the Shiite militias in Anbar and his older brother is fighting in Beiji, north of Baghdad.

“God willing, when I complete my training I will join them, even if it means sacrificing my life to keep Iraq safe,” he said.

It’s yet another way minors are being dragged into Iraq’s brutal war as the military, Shiite militias, Sunni tribes and Kurdish fighters battle to take back territory from Islamic State militants who seized much of the country’s north and west last year. The Sunni extremists have aggressively enlisted children as young as 10 for combat, as suicide bombers and as executioners in their horrifying videos. This month, Human Rights Watch said that Syrian Kurdish militias fighting the militants continue to deploy underage fighters.

The U.S. does not work directly with the Popular Mobilization Forces and has distanced itself from the Iranian-backed militias which are among the fighters under its umbrella. But the PMF receives weapons and funding from the Iraqi government and is trained by the Iraqi military, which receives its training from the U.S.

When informed of the AP findings, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement saying the U.S. is “very concerned by the allegations on the use of child soldiers in Iraq among some Popular Mobilization forces in the fight against ISIL,” using an acronym for the militant group. “We have strongly condemned this practice around the world and will continue to do so.”

Earlier this summer, on the front lines where Shiite militias are fighting IS in western Anbar province, Baghdad natives Hussein Ali, 12, and his cousin Ali Ahsan, 14, told the AP they joined their fathers on the battlefield after they finished their final exams. Carrying AK-47’s, they paced around the Anbar desert, boasting of their resolve to liberate the predominantly Sunni province from IS militants.

“It’s our honor to serve our country,” Hussein Ali said, adding that some of his schoolmates were also fighting. When asked if he was afraid, he smiled and said no.

Last year, when IS took over the northern city of Mosul, stormed to the doorstep of Baghdad and threatened to destroy Shiite holy sites, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on the public to volunteer to fight. His influence was so great that hundreds of thousands of men came forward to join the hastily-established Popular Mobilization Forces along with some of the long-established Shiite militias, most of which receive support from Iran.

Then, on June 9, as schools let out, al-Sistani issued a new fatwa urging young people in college, high school and even middle school to use their summer vacations to “contribute to (the country’s) preservation by training to take up arms and prepare to fend off risk, if this is required.”

A spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces, Kareem al-Nouri, said the camps give “lessons in self-defense” and underage volunteers are expected to return to school by September, not go to the front.

A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister’s office echoed that. There may be “some isolated incidents” of underage fighters joining combat on their own, Saad al-Harithi told the AP. “But there has been no instruction by the Marjaiyah (the top Shiite religious authority) or the Popular Mobilization Forces for children to join the battle.”

“We are a government that frowns upon children going to war,” he said.

But the line between combat training and actually joining combat is weakly enforced by the Popular Mobilization Forces. Multiple militias operate under its umbrella, with fighters loyal to different leaders who often act independently.

Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser, said that if the Shiite militias are using children as fighters, “then the countries that are supporting them are in violation of the U.N. Convention” on the Rights of the Child.

“If you are supporting the Iraqi army, then by extension, you are supporting” the Popular Mobilization Forces, she said.

The U.N. convention does not ban giving military training to minors. But Jo Becker, the advocacy director of the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, said that it puts children at risk.

“Governments like to say, ‘Of course, we can recruit without putting children in harm’s way,’ but in a place of conflict, those landscapes blur very quickly,” she said.

BAGHDAD (AP) — In the steamy Baghdad night, sweat poured down the faces of the Iraqi teens as they marched around a school courtyard, training for battle against the Islamic State group.

This is summer camp in Iraq, set up by the country’s largest paramilitary force after Iraq’s top Shiite cleric issued an edict calling on students as young as middle-school age to use their summer vacations to prepare to fight the Sunni extremists.

These young fighters could have serious implications for the U.S.-led coalition, which provides billions of dollars in military and economic aid to the Iraqi government. The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 says the United States cannot provide certain forms of military support, including foreign military financing and direct commercial sales to governments that recruit and use child soldiers or support paramilitaries or militias that do.

Hundreds of students have gone through training at the dozens of such camps run by the Popular Mobilization Forces, the government-sanctioned umbrella group of mostly Shiite militias. It is impossible to say how many went on to fight IS, since those who do so go independently. But this summer, The Associated Press saw over a dozen armed boys on the front line in western Anbar province, including some as young as 10.

Of around 200 cadets in a training class visited by the AP this month, about half were under the age of 18, with some as young as 15. Several said they intended to join their fathers and older brothers on the front lines.

Dressed in military fatigues, 15-year-old Asam Riad was among dozens of youths doing high-knee marches at the school, his chest puffed out to try to appear as tall as the older cadets.

“We’ve been called to defend the nation,” the scrawny boy asserted, his voice cracking as he vowed to join the PMF. “I am not scared because my brothers are fighting alongside me.”

Another 15-year-old in the class, Jaafar Osama, said he used to want to be an engineer when he grows up, but now he wants to be a fighter. His father is a volunteer fighting alongside the Shiite militias in Anbar and his older brother is fighting in Beiji, north of Baghdad.

“God willing, when I complete my training I will join them, even if it means sacrificing my life to keep Iraq safe,” he said.

It’s yet another way minors are being dragged into Iraq’s brutal war as the military, Shiite militias, Sunni tribes and Kurdish fighters battle to take back territory from Islamic State militants who seized much of the country’s north and west last year. The Sunni extremists have aggressively enlisted children as young as 10 for combat, as suicide bombers and as executioners in their horrifying videos. This month, Human Rights Watch said that Syrian Kurdish militias fighting the militants continue to deploy underage fighters.

The U.S. does not work directly with the Popular Mobilization Forces and has distanced itself from the Iranian-backed militias which are among the fighters under its umbrella. But the PMF receives weapons and funding from the Iraqi government and is trained by the Iraqi military, which receives its training from the U.S.

When informed of the AP findings, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement saying the U.S. is “very concerned by the allegations on the use of child soldiers in Iraq among some Popular Mobilization forces in the fight against ISIL,” using an acronym for the militant group. “We have strongly condemned this practice around the world and will continue to do so.”

For Iraq’s Shiite majority, the war against the Islamic State group — which views them as heretics to be killed — is a life-or-death fight for which the entire community has mobilized.

Last year, when IS took over the northern city of Mosul, stormed to the doorstep of Baghdad and threatened to destroy Shiite holy sites, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on the public to volunteer to fight. So great was his influence that hundreds of thousands of men came forward to join the hastily-established Popular Mobilization Forces along with some of the long-established Shiite militias, many of which receive support from Iran.

Then, on June 9, as schools let out, al-Sistani issued a new fatwa urging young people in college, high school and even middle school to use their summer vacations to “contribute to (the country’s) preservation by training to take up arms and prepare to fend off risk if this is required.”

In response, the Popular Mobilization Forces set up summer camps in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods from Baghdad to Basra. A spokesman for the group, Kareem al-Nouri, said the camps give “lessons in self-defense” and underage volunteers are expected to return to school by September, not go to the battle front.

A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister’s office echoed that. There may be “some isolated incidents” of underage fighters joining combat on their own, Saad al-Harithi told the AP. “But there has been no instruction by the Marjaiyah (the top Shiite religious authority) or the Popular Mobilization Forces for children to join the battle.” ”

“We are a government that frowns upon children going to war,” he said.

But the line between combat training and actually joining combat is blurry, and it is weakly enforced by the Popular Mobilization Forces. Multiple militias operate under its umbrella, with fighters loyal to different leaders who often act independently.

At the training camp in a middle-class Shiite neighborhood of western Baghdad earlier this month, the young cadets spoke openly of joining battle in front of their trainers, who did nothing to contradict them.

Neighborhood youths spent their evenings in training every night during the holy month of Ramadan, which ended in mid-July, with mock exercises held every few days since then for those who wish to continue.

The boys ran through the streets practicing urban warfare techniques, since the toughest battles with the Islamic State group are likely to involve street fighting. They were taught to hold, control and aim light weapons, though they didn’t fire them. They also took part in public service activities like holding blood drives and collecting food and clothing.

Earlier this summer, at one of the hottest front lines, near the IS-held city of Fallujah in western Anbar province, the AP spoke to a number of young boys, some heavily armed, among the Shiite militiamen.

Baghdad natives Hussein Ali, 12, and his cousin Ali Ahsan, 14, said they joined their fathers on the battlefield after they finished their final exams. Carrying AK-47’s, they paced around the Anbar desert, boasting of their resolve to liberate the predominantly Sunni province from IS militants.

“It’s our honor to serve our country,” Hussein Ali said, adding that some of his schoolmates were also fighting. When asked if he was afraid, he smiled and said no.

The fight they are engaged in has been brutal. IS atrocities are the most notorious and egregious, including mass killings of captured soldiers and civilians. But Shiite militias are said to have committed abuses as well. In February, Human Rights Watch accused individual Shiite militias under the Popular Mobilization Forces umbrella of “possible war crimes,” including forcing Sunni civilians from their home and abducting and summarily executing them.

In June, the United Nations Children’s Fund called for “urgent measures” to be taken by the Iraqi government to protect children, including criminalizing the recruitment of children and “the association of children with the Popular Mobilization Forces.”

The U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons report Monday in which it lists foreign governments identified over the past year as having armed forces or government-supported armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers. Those governments are subject to restrictions in the following fiscal year on certain security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment. The report lists Syria, but not Iraq.

Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser, said that if the Shiite militias are using children as fighters, “then the countries that are supporting them are in violation of the U.N. Convention” on the Rights of the Child.

“If you are supporting the Iraqi army, then by extension, you are supporting the PMF,” she said.

Iraq has a long history of training underage fighters. Under Saddam Hussein, boys 12 through 17 known as “Saddam’s lion cubs” would attend monthlong training during summer breaks with the goal of eventually merging them into the Fadayeen — a paramilitary force loyal to Saddam’s Baathist regime.

The Iraqi army restricts the age of its recruits to between 18 and 35, a policy that rights groups say is enforced. But there is no law governing the Popular Mobilization Forces. A draft law for the national guard, a force geared toward empowering Sunni tribes to police their own communities, purposely omits any age restrictions, lawmakers saying they want to open it to qualified fighters over age 35.

The U.N. convention does not ban giving military training to minors. But Jo Becker, the advocacy director of the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, said that it puts children at risk.

“Governments like to say, ‘Of course, we can recruit without putting children in harm’s way,’ but in a place of conflict, those landscapes blur very quickly,” she said.

Once in a combat situation, children are plunged into the horrors of war, she said. “They don’t have a mature sense of right and wrong and they may commit atrocities more easily than adults.”

VIENNA (AP) — Iran wants its own officials to take soil samples at a site where it is alleged to have experimented with ways to detonate a nuclear weapon, and the U.N. agency probing the suspicions may agree provided it is allowed to monitor the process, two officials told The Associated Press Tuesday.

The investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency is part of the overarching nuclear deal reached earlier this month between Iran and six world powers. Iran denies any such work but has agreed to give the IAEA access to the Parchin military complex.

Several U.S. senators cited Obama administration officials last week as saying Iran could conduct its own soil sampling at Parchin. The officials who spoke to the AP said a final agreement has not yet been reached between Iran and the IAEA.

The officials said stringent oversight of the soil-sampling could include video monitoring. They did not say what reasons Iran gave for wanting to take its own samples. The samples would be analyzed by the agency for traces left by any nuclear experiments.

The officials come from IAEA member nations and are tasked with following Iran’s nuclear program. They demanded anonymity because their information is confidential. The IAEA had no immediate comment.

David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security is often consulted by the U.S. government on proliferation issues, said the IAEA “could instruct Iran in where and how to take the sample, as they would an inspector. They could try to keep a close watch on how Iran follows the instructions.”

At the same time, “the IAEA could not exclude Iran tampering with the sample in some way,” he said.

Iran has refused to give IAEA experts access to people, documents and sites allegedly linked to the suspected weapons work for nearly a decade. But in its quest for the end to nuclear-related sanctions, it agreed earlier this month to work with the agency, and IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has said he expects to be able to deliver a report by December.

The alleged weapons work and the IAEA’s investigation are not central to the nuclear deal, which calls for the U.S. and other world powers to end economic and military sanctions in exchange for concessions from Iran in its nuclear program. Tehran says its program is entirely peaceful, but the U.S. and most other nations believe it is aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.

Still, U.S. lawmakers skeptical of the deal see the matter of whether the U.N. agency will receive full cooperation from Iran as a core issue. Congress began a 60-day review of the accord last week.

The suspected explosives testing at Parchin, south of Tehran, is only one of 11 alleged cases of nuclear weapons-related work listed by the IAEA, based on U.S., Israeli and other intelligence and its own research.

Tehran insists Parchin is a conventional military area with no link to nuclear tests. In recent years, it has carried out major construction and paving at the site where the alleged experiments took place, while refusing dozens of IAEA requests for a visit.

MAHWAH, N.J. (AP) — Police say a man drove off with a bag containing $150,000 in cash after two employees who were replenishing ATMs mistakenly left it on a lawn in northern New Jersey.

Mahwah police say in a news release that the ATM employees had stopped at a business on Industrial Avenue when one of them placed the satchel on the front lawn as he moved items around in their vehicle.

They drove off, forgetting the bag.

Sometime after 11:15 a.m. Monday, surveillance video shows a passenger in a white van grabbing the bag.

The van was seen in other video surveillance pulling into a nearby auto repair business and pilfering used tires.

Police say the ATM employees are cooperating with the investigation.

LONDON (AP) — The British judge investigating the radioactive poisoning death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko on Tuesday accused Russian authorities or a key suspect of interfering with his inquiry.

Robert Owen spoke after suspect Dmitry Kovtun failed to give evidence.

Kovtun had offered to testify by video link from Russia, but at the last minute said he was bound by confidentiality obligations to an ongoing Russian inquiry.

Owen said that either Kovtun’s offer of participation had been “a charade” or “obstacles have been put in the way of his doing so.”

“Mr. Kovtun has been given every opportunity to give evidence,” the judge said. “He has now lost that opportunity.”

Litvinenko, a KGB officer-turned-Kremlin critic, died in 2006, three weeks after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 at a London hotel. On his deathbed, Litvinenko blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his assassination — a claim Moscow denies.

British authorities say there is evidence of Russian state involvement, and police have accused two Russians who met Litvinenko in London, Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi, of carrying out the killing. Both deny involvement, and Russia refuses to extradite them.

Owen plans to wrap up inquiry hearings this week and issue his findings by the end of the year.

BOSTON (AP) — On Boston’s last day as a potential Olympic host, Chris Dempsey ate lunch at an Irish pub across from City Hall and waited for the bid for the 2024 Summer Games to crumble.

A waitress recognized Dempsey, the co-chair of the opposition group No Boston Olympics, from last week’s televised debate. A customer walked by and applauded, but his attempt at a high five was rebuffed.

“We’ll see,” Dempsey said.

It was about two hours after Mayor Marty Walsh refused to cover Olympic cost overruns, dooming the bid, and two hours before the USOC withdrew its support. Dempsey explained his hesitation in a truly Bostonian way: Referring to the stolen base that helped propel the Red Sox to the 2004 World Series, he said, “I want to make sure there’s no Dave Roberts-style comeback.”

Later Monday afternoon, the USOC announced that it was, indeed, backing away from Boston in what was described as a mutual agreement to give the United States hope of hosting its first Summer Games since 1996. Officials said they would explore other cities, with the most likely being Los Angeles.

Dempsey said he hoped the experience in Boston would change the way the USOC and the IOC do business. Otherwise, he said, “It’s hard to imagine smart cities and countries getting involved.”

Formed in a Beacon Hill living room in November 2013, when the prospect of bringing the Summer Games to the Athens of America was only slightly more realistic than it is now, No Boston Olympics grew into the most visible and sensible opposition to the plan to host the 2024 games.

Tapping into the city’s notorious negativity but also seizing on a growing resentment over the way international sports are run, the group led the campaign to scuttle what it saw as an attempt by Boston’s power brokers to determine what’s best for the city without any input from the people the plans would affect.

“This never was a bid that boiled up from the bottom. It was always a top-down effort,” Dempsey said in a previously scheduled interview with The Associated Press that happened to fall in the middle of the bid’s collapse. “Boston is a thriving democracy, and a marketplace of ideas. People reacted negatively to the idea that this was sprung on them.”

The USOC chose Boston as the potential American host city in a secretive process in January over San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

But the bid was in trouble from the start.

Poll numbers showed a consistent majority of Boston residents opposed hosting the games. Few believed the local businessmen leading the bid could deliver without billions in taxpayer subsidies. Many feared another expensive and disruptive project like the Big Dig. The unrelated indictment of seven top international soccer officials was seen as evidence that international sports authorities can’t be trusted.

Four different men took turns as the face of Boston 2024, the privately run and financed bid committee, but No Boston Olympics hammered away at the same points: That planning for the games would distract the city from more important needs, and that a lack of transparency undermined any promises that might otherwise be welcomed.

Every Boston 2024 announcement was followed by a No Boston Olympics statement, usually pointing out gaps in the financial projections, or simply noting that the plan still required the three most expensive venues to be built from scratch. Led by Dempsey and co-chairs Liam Kerr and Kelley Gossett, No Boston Olympics established a presence on social media but also excelled at old-style mobilization, bringing their supporters to public meetings while holding town halls of their own to get their message out.

That message: Hosting the Olympics is a bad way to grow a city.

“The process is set up to lead to poor outcomes for host cities,” Dempsey said as Gossett checked her phone for final word on the bid. “There are too many places where the needs of the IOC are opposed to the needs of the taxpayer back home.”

Though the mayor denigrated the opposition as “10 people on Twitter” on Monday, No Boston Olympics accumulated about 3,700 Twitter followers and 4,500 likes on Facebook by the end. The group also forced old-fashioned debates and worked the traditional media despite a budget of about $10,000.

Average donations to the non-profit were about $100 from an undisclosed list of contributors that Dempsey said were in the hundreds. That was still more donors than the official bid group, which received an average contribution of $74,000, he said, and outspent the opposition by a 1,000-to-1 ratio.

“They can make a video of David Ortiz, and it looks great,” Dempsey said, referring to the belated attempt to enlist local sports stars in support of the bid. In response, No Boston Olympics spent $100 to print out a giant novelty check made out to the IOC, with the amount blank and the signature reading “Taxpayers.”

With the end of the 2024 bid, Dempsey said No Boston Olympics “will go away.” A Harvard Business School graduate and Bain consultant who worked with Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Dempsey said he had no plans to run for office.

But he said that the group’s three leaders hope to turn the public energy generated by the debate into something else.

“Our organization was focused on opposing Boston 2024,” he said at a news conference before heading to a local bar for a celebration. “At the same time, there has been a lot of energy from Olympic opponents that should be turned into something positive. So we will have to figure out how to do that.”

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Associated Press Writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this story.