Children Conscripted Directly From Schools

Story Highlights

Children conscripted to become soldiers.

Many children die fighting against Somali troops and African Union peacekeepers.

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA -- Hundreds of children, some as young as 8 years old, have been conscripted from schools in Mogadishu and the lower Shabelle region by Somalia's Al-Shabaab extremist group to be soldiers.

"They came to our school, they came to every school, they took many students for what they call 'jihad,'" a principal at a school in Mogadishu that lost 30 students through conscription told The Tiziano Project on condition of anonymity.

"Very few of those students, maybe five, wanted to join them. The others were forcibly taken in the last week," he said.

Sources say the students were taken to a training camp in the town of Baraawe 250 kilometers south of Mogadishu.

Baraawe has dense forests that make it easy for the militants to hide the children.

A mother of a conscripted child told The Tiziano Project she tried to convince al-Shabaab to leave her son alone, but they threatened to execute her, citing "Obligatory Jihad".

"I had been looking for my 9-year-old child for a week," Aisha told The Tiziano Project in tears.

"When I found his whereabouts and asked [Al-Shabaab] to give my son back, they told me they would kill if me if I didn't leave," she said.

Many of the recruited children die fighting against Somali troops and African Union peacekeepers.

Doctors say conscripted children experience post-traumatic stress disorder. "We treat many of the former recruits, their main problems are Insomnia and the psychological destruction from indoctrination and being a soldier," a Somali doctor in Mogadishu who asked not to be named told The Tiziano Project.

Human rights groups have condemned the recruitment of children. "It's outrageous and clear violation of the rights of children, we urge the warring sides to stop this barbaric practice," said Ali Yasin, an Elman Peace Centre activist in Mogadishu.


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1 Comment

This is a really horrible story. Good job bringing it to light Mr. Abdi.

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