MOGADISHU — Somali forces have completed an operation against a school run by al-Shabaab, rescuing 32 children who had been taken as recruits by the Islamist group.
The operation was conducted on Thursday night in Jameca area in Middle Shabelle region, according to Abdirahman Omar Osman, information minister for Somalia.
“All the rescued children are safe and sound. It is unfortunate that terrorists are recruiting children to their twisted ideology,” Osman said.
Al-Shabaab denied that it had been recruiting members below the age of 15. The group said on its website that no one is forced to join its group, adding that children were being sent to Islamic religious schools to be educated.
“We do not want children in the remote areas to become as ignorant as animals,” the group said.
Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Al-Shabaab of ordering elders and teachers in rural parts of the southern Bay region in mid-2017 to provide them with children – as young as eight – or face reprisals.
The rights group revealed that Al Shabaab had recruited thousands of children for indoctrination and to become frontline fighters over the past decade, and its religious schools are pressured to teach al Shabaab’s curriculum.
In a separate development, the US military said on Friday it carried out a drone strike the previous day against al-Shabaab about 50km northwest of Kismayo, killing 4 militants.
The US Africa Command said via a press statement that no civilians were killed in the airstrike. It said that its airstrikes were carried out in support of its allies, the Somali national army and the African Union Mission in Somalia.
Reporting by Abdirisak Mohamud Tuuryare from Mogadishu, Somalia.
UN Photo / File: A child soldier after his capture by African Union forces.