A new recruitment video by Al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based Al-Qaeda branch that operates in the Horn of Africa, opens with an image of a child playing with a toy gun.
"Do you know who I will kill with this gun?" a little boy says into the video camera, waving his toy pistol.
"Who will you kill with this gun?" the cameraman asks.
The scene appears in a new video by the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab that shows the Somali militant group indoctrinating children, some of whom appear to be toddlers. NP
Video: Somalia - Festival For The Children Of The Martyrs
He’s not just any boy, but the son of the bomber who almost assassinated former Somali president Abdullah Yusuf when he blew himself up Oct 11, 2007 at the parliament in the southern city of Baidoa. The attack is celebrated by Al-Shabab as part of an operation that allowed the terror group to expand in Somalia.
A message’s meaning isn’t easily lost when in the video an image of the toddler and deceased father are placed side-by-side while a voice in Arabic sings praises of the Baidoa attack.
"What brought us together today is the blood of the martyrs," Mr. Hammami tells the children, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. "So on the necks of the attendants today rests the responsibility of blood. Each of us should assume a part of this responsibility.
"As men, we have to continue the fighting started by those heroes. We have to abide by the principles for which those heroes were martyred. They honoured the responsibility on them."
Mr. Hammami then urges their mothers, who appear to be seated at the back of the room, to encourage the children to "learn military sciences" and tells the kids they "have to work hard and try to be like their hero fathers who were martyred in this path."
The children are later shown holding their plastic guns while waving black Al-Shabab flags in a pose reminiscent of terrorist videos. One child crawls prone on the floor with his rifle while another grimaces and aims his toy AK-47 at the camera. NP
“After four years since the Baidoa attack,” says Al-Shabab leader Mukhtar Abu az-Zubair, “it’s still possible to see the consequences. That operation laid the foundation to conquer the city. This is because our road to victory is paved with the blood of martyrs past and martyrs of the future.”
“Unfortunately many children are trained by Al-Shabab,” said Hasan Osman, director of Radio Shabelle, a popular radio station in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, in an interview with AKI.
“Militant Islam began concentrating on recruiting children into combat when attacks became bolder and they decided to advance into the capital.”
Somalia has been largely ungoverned for nearly 20 years, giving Al-Qaeda huge areas to operate unobstructed. A UN-backed transitional government is largely absent from large parts of the country where hardline Muslim fundamentalists aim to impose a strict version of Sharia Islamic law, including a recent law outlawing radio stations from airing music.
Viewers of the new 28-minute recruitment video are encouraged to join the struggle with scenes of a room decorated for a party in Mogadishu, attended by children of dead jihadists and their mothers who are dressed in black.
Dozens of children, ages three to seven years old, hope to win plastic weapons as prizes, as well as balls and other typical toys in a type of quiz show for toddlers conducted by an international terrorists.
“Name the month in which you must fast?” goes one question. The questions increase in difficulty until the tiny contestants are asked to identify Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late founder of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, killed in 2006 in a US airstrike.