Al-Shabab is a group fighting Somalia’s central government and African Union troops in Mogadishu. It controls large parts of southern Somalia where it has imposed its strict interpretation of Islam. It is estimated to have some 15,000 fighters.
Al-Shabab has claimed an affiliation with al-Qaeda since 2007, and its leaders are believed to have received training at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. In February 2008, al-Shabab was added to the U.S. government’s list of foreign terrorist groups.
Al-Shabab’s members are very clear about their objective: to overthrow Somalia’s government and enact strict Shari’a law. The group has banned music, videos, shaving and even bras in the areas it controls and maintains control through often brutal methods. Women accused of adultery are publicly stoned to death; teenaged thieves have had their limbs severed; one Somali said his brother was killed simply for selling phone cards to Ethiopian troops.
Recruiting fighters for the civil war in Somalia is evidently becoming more difficult and Al-Shabab has been resorting to desperate measures to gain new recruits. A radio station operated by the Al-Shabab militant group ran a contest for children and youths earlier this month in which the main prize was an AK-47 assault rifle plus the equivalent of $700 and religious books. The second prize was an AK-47 plus $500 and religious literature. The third prize was two hand grenades and $400.
A very large ceremony was held in Mogadishu outskirts of Elasha, and was attended by senior officials of Al-Shabab group where they advised the children to go into ongoing fighting in Somalia and battle against Somalia government and the African Union troops in Mogadishu.
“We want the children to fight for defending of their country and their religion.. just take these guns,” he said, “Children should have one hand on the Koran but the other on a rifle to defend Islam.”