Militant group trains children to kill ‘infidels’
by Stewart Bell | National Post
TORONTO -- "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 [see below] by the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab that shows the Somali militant group indoctrinating children, some of whom appear to be toddlers.
Among those seen in the 28-minute video urging the children to fight and become "martyrs" is a former Toronto resident, Omar Hammami, alias Abu Mansour the American.
The video, distributed on the Internet this week by Al-Shabab's propaganda arm, shows a "children's fair" hosted by Al-Shabab leaders. The boys and girls, identified as the children of "martyrs," are given balloons and snacks and rewarded with toy guns for correctly identifying the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, from a picture.
"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.
"We are horrified by these images and by the exploitation of these very young Somali children by senior leaders of the Al-Shabab terrorist group," said Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress.
"The central role played by Omar Hammami in the recruitment of these very young children to Al-Shabab proves to us that foreign extremists will stop at nothing to bring further misery to Somalia," he said.
"We hope that this video will unmask the true nature of the Al-Shabab and make Somalis everywhere realize the fact that this group has never cared about the welfare of Somalis despite its rhetoric of doing so."
Al-Shabab is a Taliban-like armed extremist group that is fighting to overthrow Somalia's United Nations-backed government. It is notorious for its suicide bombings and assassinations of government officials, activists and journalists.
Ottawa outlawed Al-Shabab last month due to concerns it was attempting to radicalize and recruit young Somali Canadians. Federal security officials are investigating six Toronto youths who allegedly joined Al-Shabab last year. One of them, Mohamed Elmi Ibrahim, a University of Toronto student, has reportedly died.
Al-Shabab has attracted recruits from Canada, Europe, Australia and the United States. Mr. Hammami is an Alabama-born American Muslim who moved to Toronto in 2005 and married a Canadian Somali. The following year, he travelled to Somalia to join Al-Shabab.
In its annual report to Parliament on Wednesday, Canada's intelligence service described Somalia as a "magnet for international terrorists" who have converged in the African nation to create a Taliban-like state.
It also warned that Canadians who travel there to participate in the conflict "may be drawn into global jihad circles, where they are subsequently recruited to carry out attacks against perceived enemies of Islam."
The RCMP and FBI have said they are concerned that Canadian and U.S. recruits could return from Al-Shabab's camps to conduct terrorist attacks in North America. The CSIS report called the Somali conflict "a direct threat to Canadian and international security."
[NOTE FROM PERRY BULWER: Three videos that originally appeared in this post are no longer available as YouTube reports the account that submitted the videos has been closed]
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National Post - Canada April 19, 2010
Somalia repression 'grinding'
Report on rights; al-Shabab abuses likened to Taliban's
Stewart Bell | National Post
A 70-year-old woman is whipped for missing prayers; men with "Western" haircuts are shaved with broken bottles; a mother is lashed and locked in a shipping container for leaving her home without a head covering.
A Human Rights Watch report to be released today describes the "grinding repression" in Somalia under al-Shabab, the armed group that has imposed its bleak religious rule on a vast swath of the African country.
The report accuses all sides in Somalia's war of abuses but its depiction of al-Shabab is reminiscent of Afghanistan under the Taliban, with thugs meting out punishment as severe as beheadings and public stonings for supposed violations of sharia law.
"Al-Shabab exerts enormous control over personal lives and devotes remarkable energy to policing and penalizing conduct that it deems idle or immoral. Almost no detail is too minute to escape the group's scrutiny," the report says.
"In many areas, al-Shabab administrators have banned public gatherings, dancing at weddings, musical ring tones on cellphones, Western music and movies.... They have barred men from shaving their beards and moustaches, or wearing long hair or long trousers. They have refused to allow people on the streets during prayer times."
Al-Shabab, which means "The Youth," was formed in 2006 to fight the United Nations-backed Somali government and African Union peacekeepers. It now controls southern Somalia. Some of its leaders have ties to al-Qaeda.
The Canadian government outlawed al-Shabab as a terrorist organization last month due to concerns it has been attempting to radicalize and recruit young Somali-Canadians. Canada is home to the largest ethnic Somali diaspora outside Africa.
Federal security officials are investigating allegations that at least six Toronto youths left Canada last year to join al-Shabab. One of them, Mohamed Elmi Ibrahim, is reportedly dead, although it is unclear how he died.
"Most credible estimates agree there are several hundred foreign fighters in Somalia," the report says. They include Canadians, Europeans, Australians and at least 20 Americans. At least two foreigners have conducted suicide bombings.
While Western counterterrorism officials warn that these foreign recruits may attempt attacks in North America, Human Rights Watch says al-Shabab has also sharply curtailed the freedoms of Somalis.
As part of its armed campaign to promote its extremist version of Islam, al-Shabab last week banned school bells in one town, arguing they sounded like church bells. The National Union of Somali Journalists said on Friday that extremists had "fiercely targeted" the Mogadishu press.
It is women, however, who are bearing the brunt of al-Shabab abuses, Human Rights Watch says. Al-Shabab has banned bras in some areas and ordered women to wear a bulky Islamic gown known as an abaya.
Those caught without one have been whipped and arrested, and one woman described being struck with gun butts. Another said she was arrested after running outside to grab her child, who had wandered on to the street.
"An al-Shabab patrol saw me. I told them, 'I am running after my child and you cannot arrest me -- I have another child in the house,' " she said. "One of them slapped me and told me to walk." Her punishment: 10 lashes.
The militants have also ordered women to close their tea stands and small shops. Women caught working have been arrested and beaten, even if they were elderly, infirm, pregnant or had lost their family breadwinners in the fighting.
"In many areas, al-Shabab rule has brought relative peace and order that contrasts dramatically with the chaos in Mogadishu. Residents from some of these areas told Human Rights Watch that they credit al-Shabab with ending a constant menace of extortion, robbery, and murder from bandits and freelance militias. But even where this holds true, security has come at a steep price --especially for women."
The repressive measures are costing al-Shabab popular support, some analysts believe. There are also signs of infighting with al-Shabab between Somali nationalists and those who believe they are fighting a global war against non-Muslims.
In its annual report to Parliament last week, CSIS called Somalia "a magnet for international terrorists" and said that those who travel there to participate in the conflict "may be drawn into global jihad circles, where they are subsequently recruited to carry out attacks against perceived enemies of Islam."
A video distributed online by al-Shabab last week showed leaders of the group -- one of them a former Toronto resident -- indoctrinating boys and girls, some of whom appeared to be toddlers.
Human Rights Watch says, "All parties to the conflict in Somalia have recruited children as soldiers."
In a statement, the Canadian Somali Congress said: "This report is deeply troubling.... We condemn the human rights abuses by the Al-Shabab terrorist group, the Transitional Federal Government and the troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia. This credible report shows that the various players in the Somali conflict have violated the laws of war and urgent steps need to be taken in order to end the impunity that contributes to further abuses of civilians."
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