Somali Army, Herders Repel al-Shabaab Attack Aimed at Abducting Children - Africa Defense Forum
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Somali Army, Herders Repel al-Shabaab Attack Aimed at Abducting Children

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For more than a decade, the terror group al-Shabaab has used the abduction and recruitment of thousands of children in Somalia to fuel its deadly insurgency.

It happened again in what has recently become an epicenter of armed conflict — the central Mudug region. But this time, the children fought back.

According to Somali National Army (SNA) Commander Isma’il Abdi Malik Malin, al-Shabaab militants swept into the town of Ba’adweyn on August 12, invading land occupied by herders.

Looking to set up a new base in the area, the extremists demanded that residents give them money and animals and allow them to recruit the town’s young people to be fighters.

When the townspeople resisted, al-Shabaab fighters raided a local militia base and stole weapons before destroying it, according to Somali Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Awad.

The herders and young people took up arms and defended themselves, their land and animals.

“There were intense clashes, which lasted for several hours,” Malin told journalists, according to The East African. The SNA reached the area to support the herdsmen and engage the militants. “Our forces finally overpowered the militants, killing 16 of them and injuring 20 others.”

Radio Kulmiye in Mogadishu reported the attackers came from Haradhere, a coastal town that once was a notorious pirate stronghold but has been controlled by al-Shabaab since at least 2012.

Mohamed Ahmed Alim, a camel herder in the Ba’adweyn area, told Radio Kulmiye the attack took a tragic toll before the SNA arrived.

“They killed 10 persons, including a Quran teacher,” he said, adding three were injured.

The terrorist organization operates mostly in southern and central Somalia. But COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns have restricted access to food, weapons and medicine, while cutting off revenue from taxation and extortion.

With training from the United States and the United Kingdom, the Somali Army is increasing its capability but is not yet ready to secure the country. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), a force of 22,000 Soldiers, had planned to draw down to about 19,000 troops in 2020 and leave Somalia altogether in 2021, but those decisions were made before the pandemic struck.

Despite al-Shabaab’s ruthless campaign, there are successes on which to base hope for cutting off the group’s forced child conscription.

Two days after the fighting near Ba’adweyn, an SNA brigade rescued 33 children from an al-Shabaab camp in Kurtunwarey in the Lower Shabelle region, The Nation reported.

“We advocate for calmness as our people fight hard to defend the territory, which is under threat from the militants,” Ahmed told GaroweOnline.com. “It’s something which we can do, and it’s time all Somalis rise up against violent extremism, which has derailed development in our country.”

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