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Jimale Kahiye, an elder in Bardhere, told Somalia Report the al-Shabaab head in the region had earlier ordered all teenage boys and able-bodied men to join the militia and told elders to bring forward their sons.
“It is an obligation for the elders to bring forward their sons and fight for the sake of Allah, the war will continue and all men in this region must take part in it whether they like it or not," a notice from the head of al-Shabaab military operations in Bardhere, Sheikh Muktar Sheikh Farah, read.
When the order was ignored, al-Shabaab militants returned to arrest the men, who were all over 50.
"They came fully armed and took away thirty men that reside here,” Kahiye said. “They spared me because I suffer from heart problems; otherwise they would have locked me up with the rest as well.”
Liban Hashi, a 58-year-old retired Somali general in the government-administered district of Beled Hawo, told Somalia Report the move showed al-Shabaab’s desperation as it attempts to gain enough manpower to halt government gains in the region.
Since al-Shabaab’s failed 2010 Ramadan offensive, in which it lost many fighters, the group has resorted to forced recruitment of youth and elders. On Friday, the insurgents seized 100 youths in Mogadishu and deployed them around the capital as government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers battle to gain new territory.