A young member of an African child army marches down a dirt road, toting an AK-47 automatic assault rifle.
Children with AK-47s: The al-Shabab way. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Hjalmar Gislason/Flickr)

In war-ravaged Somalia, dominant Islamic militant group al-Shabab believes in rewarding faithful radio listeners, children included. That’s exactly what happened after an August trivia contest, reports the New York Times. Youth contestants who displayed the most knowledge of a famous Shabab warrior were rewarded with free AK-47s and live hand grenades.

Celebrating Ramadan with bullets

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is dedicated to fasting, al-Shabab feasted on the fruit of war. On a live radio program, representatives of al-Shabab asked children ages 10 to 17 to name the war in which famous al-Shabab warrior Sheik Timajilic was killed, among other details. Those children who could recite the most information were rewarded with weapons with which to reinforce al-Shabab control over Somalia.

Such children are typical of those found in child armies in various African nations. BBC News indicates that alcohol and drugs are commonly used to make young boys pliable and open to militaristic indoctrination. Considering that Somalia has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, the country is scarred by famine and it has had no functioning central government for two decades, it comes as no surprise to many that the children are “more familiar with rifles than rulers,” writes the Times.

A book and a gun

First- and second-place winners in the al-Shabab radio contest were given AK-47 automatic assault rifles, money and Islamic books. The third-place winner was given two hand grenades. According to moderate al-Shabab leader Sheik Muktar Robow Abu Monsur, it’s all part of a being a good citizen.

“Children should use one hand for education and the other for a gun to defend Islam,” he said.

Child soldiers with AK-47s

Sources

AK-47 Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AK-47

Al Jazeera: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2009/08/20098432032479714.html

BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/743684.stm

New York Times: http://nyti.ms/rdKYR7

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