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.
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.