Al-Shabaab fighters engaged in clash with Puntland forces may have captured men as young as 12 to fight alongside them, reports suggest following the capture of at least thirty fighters who were paraded by Puntland troops Tuesday evening.
The fighters who were clad in Al-Shabaab gear alleged they were lured by Al-Shabaab leaders for jobs and education in Yemen but ended up fighting alongside them when they were attacked by Puntland forces. Some of fighters who were captured in Suuj valley, Nugal region in Puntland said they were waylaid after being accused they were government soldiers.
“I was told we were going to be given opportunities to study in Yemen but along the way we were given weapons and forced to fight alongside Al-Shabaab,” said one of the boys captured who claimed to be 12 years old.
The fighters were paraded alongside their leader. Al-Shabaab has always deployed fighters young as 12 to act as suicide bombers.
Puntland information Mohamud Hassan So’aade Monday said the state forces had killed 70 Al-Shabaab fighters and captured 30 others. The bodies of the fighters were carried in trucks and displayed in Suuj town and the administrative capital, Garowe.
The minister said Puntland forces had cleared Suuj valley and all fighters killed or apprehended.
The fighting started a week ago in Gara’ad town after more than 200 Al-Shabaab fighters briefly captured the town before they were overpowered by Puntland forces.
The Federal Government last week sent two airplanes loaded with military supplies to reinforce the Puntland forces that had been battling the fighters for about four days.
There were reports the fighters could be affiliated to the Islamic State of the Levant and Iraq, ISIL and were headed to Galgala mountain ranges in Puntland where their founder Abdulkadir Mumin declared allegiance to ISIL last year.