The Islamic State’s (Isis’s) growing influence in Somalia is a cause for alarm and must be checked by the international community, a Somali military leader has said. Abdul Qadir Mumin, a British passport holder, leads a large contingent of IS (Daesh) fighters in the country who have defected to the jihadist group from al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab.
Sky News unearthed evidence that jihadists are relying more and more on child soldiers to swell their ranks. Boys, some aged between 10 and 15, were recently captured during an IS attack by sea and are being held in prison in Garowe, capital of the Puntland autonomous region.
Mumin’s IS faction is reportedly operating out of the remote Galgala mountains in north eastern Somalia after it was pushed out of a nearby town by Somali forces.
Puntland army chief General Mohammed Saed Hirsi told Sky News: “If Puntland is not helped to fight terrorism, there will be a breeding ground for terror here that will spread to the rest of the world.”
Women and child survivors spoke of their ordeal at the hands of jihadists.
One woman told Sky News: “They throw you around from one man to another man and while that’s happening, they hit you with whips.” A child soldier who tried to escape from IS’s clutches said he was tied up to a tree for 24 hours and beaten with canes.
Another said: “I don’t know the name of the group I was fighting for… they just told us that we would go to heaven.”
Last month, the UN Somalia mission chief Michael Keating said he was “appalled” by the use of child soldiers by al-Shabaab and other jihadist groups in the Horn of Africa. “I am both distressed and truly appalled that anyone is using kids reportedly as young as 14 and sending them off to fight as fodder,” he told CNN.
“The sheer number of them who were sent up to Puntland, that’s what is particularly shocking about it. It’s one thing to have a few kids in the mix, it’s another to have dozens of them being sent up in units,” Keating explained.