Human Rights Watch: al-Shabaab recruits, abuses children

February 21, 2012

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Al-Shabaab has been increasingly recruiting Somali children and subjecting them to abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday (February 21st).

"Al-Shabaab rebels have abducted children from their homes and schools to fight, for rape and for forced marriage," said Deputy Children's Rights Director Zama Coursen-Neff. The militia has also targeted schools in their attacks on civilians, banning subjects such as English and science and executing teachers who defy the ban.

Al-Shabaab has increasingly forced children as young as 10 to join its dwindling ranks, the report said. After several weeks of harsh training, child recruits are sent to the frontlines, where some serve as "cannon fodder" to protect adult fighters.

The reports said the Transitional Federal Government forces and its allied militias also deploy children with their forces, despite commitments to stop the practice.

Human Rights Watch called on the country's leaders to address these abuses at the London conference on Somalia on Thursday. "It is crucial for them to protect this shattered generation of children from further horror," Coursen-Neff said.

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