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The residents of El-Qoohle, El-Lahelay and El-Garas, all in the Galgadud region which is controlled by the al-Shabaab militia, have reported that al-Shabaab militants are forcibly recruiting their children to fight.
The people living in these areas are mostly middle-class people with every family keeping some animals as a source of income and wealth.
The recruitment of children under the age of 12 years by the al-Shabaab militia has been on the rise by the in Galgadud region. The militia, which is currently facing strong opposition in different places in Somalia, had fought with the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa (ASWJ) forces and the Ethiopian forces who are supporting the ASWJ fight the al-Shabaab militia at Galgadud region have lost many grounds in Galgadud region including key towns like El Buur.
The al-Shabaab fighters in Galgadud region have started recruiting people into the militia by convincing them through all means and ways possible.
Abdifatah Kuus, a resident at El-Garas who fled the area and is currently in El-Bur, talked to Somalia Report concerning what is going on in his area.
“The al-Shabaab fighters started recruiting our children by force. When the children are sent to learn in the Dugsi (Quran schools), they are instead taught about Jihad and nothing else. When the children come back to their homes, they are reciting jihad poems and are abusing the other groups who are fighting against the al-Shabaab,” said Abdifatah.
Small children, who are not even allowed to do simple chores like collecting firewood, fetching water for the family or even herding the animals, are being induced by the easily available education at the dugsi and persuaded to take up guns heavier than they can handle and made to face well-trained armies.
“We don’t even allow the children do any work for us because they are young, but now the al-Shabaab fighters are exploiting these children in the wrong way. They have changed the teachers at the dugsi and replaced with ones of their own, who only propagate their dogma and pass the fighting skills to the children. We tried to resist the change they made in the teachers, but we only have a say and nobody looked into our complaints,” he added.
Due to the many fronts the al-Shabaab militia is facing at war and the scarcity of the soldiers may have led to the option of recruiting these children into the militia. The parents, on the other hand, are striving to save their children from being recruited for the al-Shabaab. Some parents have sent their children to the places controlled by the ASWJ and the Ethiopian forces, while other parents in the Galgadud region, especially the areas controlled by the al-Shabaab, have stopped sending their children to the Dugsi.
“I have sent my two boys, who are 16 years and 13 years of age, to El-Bur to avoid them being recruited into the militia. I don’t want them to start living a bad life, a life of a criminal,” said Adawe, a father who remained at El-Qoohle which is under the control of the al-Shabaab militia.
The al-Shabaab militia have taken around 100 children, recruited from the dugsi schools, who are thought to be compelled to fight in the ongoing wars against the ASWJ and the Ethiopian forces who have seized much ground in Galgadud from the al-Shabaab militia.
These children are reported to be of the age 12 years and below. The parents of these children, who live under the al-Shabaab rule, have condemned the act of using children in the wars but still cannot complain due to fear of persecution. The children are taken from the Dugsi and after taking down their names, they are taken to al-Shabaab bases in the area for crash training. Many families have not seen their children for days and are informed that their children are serving the al-Shabaab army and are 'ready to defend the religion from the infidels and their allies who don’t want the implementation of shariah law in the land.'
It was early these week when the head of the al-Shabaab militia for Galgadud region, Sheik Awale Mohamed Ali, had warned that the mujahideen will continue their wars against the enemies and will not allow the end of their rule in the area. However, it was not the expectation of the people to see increased recruitment of children into the al-Shabaab military force to continue the wars with the Ethiopians and the ASWJ.
The head of security of El Buur town of Galgadud region for the ASWJ, Abdi Hassan Mohamed, confirmed the alarming recruitment of children into the al-Shabaab army.
“We are aware of the recruitment of children in the El-Qoohle and El-Lahelay areas. They are forcing children to fight for them in the battle fields but soon the Galgadud region will be in our hands completely,” Hassan said.