Al-Shabaab jihadists in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region have ramped up “aggressive” child recruitment efforts, forcing outgunned residents who refused to surrender their kids to ultimately flee after fighting the heavily armed al-Qaeda affiliate, Kenya’s Standard newspaper reports Thursday.
The Kenyan outlet notes:
Al-Shabaab reportedly ordered elders and parents and other community members in rural areas, to provide hundreds of children for recruitment. The development sparked off clashes between Al-Shabaab militias and the locals in Gullane and Kadere villages. A local resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Al-Shabaab had displaced hundreds of locals who refused to surrender their children to fight for the group.
“Many people fled from their homes after Al-Shabaab started the aggressive child recruitment campaign. We call on the government to intervene,” the resident declared, stressing that both parents and children have been forced to flee to avoid forced recruitment.
According to a report unveiled by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in January of this year, the Islamic terrorist group that operates in and around Somalia has already recruited “thousands of children for indoctrination” to become the next generation of jihadists since it launched its violent campaign against the Somali government in 2006.
In the January report, HRW revealed that it is using death threats to coerce civilians into surrendering children from their community “for indoctrination and military training.”
Al-Shabaab’s violent tactic has reportedly already forced community elders to surrender thousands of children, including 300 in one region alone.
The United Nations has confirmed that child abductions, notably from schools in Somalia, and al-Shabaab’s use of children as terrorists significantly increased last year and continued to do so.
“Al-Shabaab’s ruthless recruitment campaign is taking rural children from their parents so they can serve this militant armed group,” Laetitia Bader, senior Africa researcher at HRW, declared. “To escape that cruel fate, many children have fled school or their homes.”
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has intensified America’s military campaign against al-Shabaab, launching a record number of airstrikes in Somalia in 2017.
The most recent estimate from the U.S. Department of State (DOS) places the number of al-Shabaab jihadis at “several thousand.”
Al-Shabaab terrorists are considered one of the deadliest and most prolific terrorist jihadis in the world.
Some news outlets have suggested that the famine currently plaguing parts of Africa has fueled opposition to al-Shabaab, which has prevented locals from accessing aid from organizations it considers branches of spies are trying to perpetuate Western values.
“Somalia’s growing famine partly stems from a global failure to act on warning signs, but it’s exacerbated by militant group al-Shabaab, factions of which are blocking aid delivery and might have to be negotiated with, says Africa analyst Rashid Abdi,” the Council on Foreign Relations noted back in 2011.