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Child soldiers fighting in Somalia

Feb. 21, 2012 at 9:46 AM

LONDON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab is recruiting children to fight, though it's not just al-Qaida affiliates who are to blame, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch, in a 105-page report published Tuesday, said all parties to the conflict in Somalia are using child soldiers.

Zama Coursen-Neff, deputy director for children's rights at Human Rights Watch, said there's no safe place for children in Somalia.

"Al-Shabaab's horrific abuses do not excuse Somalia's transitional federal government's use of children as soldiers," she said in a statement from London.

All parties to the conflict, including the African Union, the transitional federal government and al-Shabaab are called on to release any children fighting in their ranks.

"The TFG should live up to its commitments to stop recruiting and using children as soldiers and punish those who do," Coursen-Neff said. "Governments backing the TFG should make clear that these abuses won't be tolerated."

Somalia earned praise from the United Nations for moving closer to ending the government's transitional period. There hasn't been a formal central government in Somalia since the 1990s and the transitional administration struggles to gain influence over al-Shabaab, which controls parts of the country.

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