Islamist insurgents in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province are grooming children as young as five years old to fight as jihadists, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed Tuesday.
“In northern Mozambique, worrying reports emerged on Tuesday that children as young as five have been shown how to handle weapons and indoctrinated to fight with insurgents,” UN News reported on October 5.
“Unverified video material secured by armed forces in an abandoned training camp apparently shows abducted children as young as five handling weapons and being indoctrinated to fight,” UNICEF spokesman James Elder told reporters at a regular press conference in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday.
He also addressed other reports alleging Mozambican jihadists have been abducting “young boys and girls … from their families” in Cabo Delgado villages. These newly surfaced reports “match accounts told by family members to UNICEF’s field staff and partners,” Elder acknowledged on October 6.
“This is leaving little doubt that children are being forcefully recruited by this non-state armed group,” the UNICEF spokesman said, adding that UNICEF had found “evidence of sexual violence against girls and of young girls being forced into marriage with their abductors.”
Elder referred to “Al-Shabaab,” which is the colloquial name for a Mozambican affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Mozambique’s ISIS affiliate is distinct from Somalia’s “Al-Shabaab” terror group, which is loyal to Al-Qaeda. “Al Shabaab” translates to “the youth” in Arabic and is a common term assigned to young groups in the Muslim world. Mozambique’s Al-Shabaab group gained admittance to the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province (ISCAP) in 2019, upon which occasion it was formally named “Ahl al-Sunnah wa al Jamma’ah” (ASWJ).
Elder on October 5 said Mozambique’s ISIS affiliate has been recruiting child soldiers “since al-Shabab and other armed groups attacked Cabo Delgado in March. The United Nations reports dozens of people were killed and nearly 40,000 people fled to safer areas in the region,” Voice of America relayed.
Hundreds of Al-Shabaab terrorists stormed the Cabo Delgado resort town of Palma on March 24. Palma is located a short distance north of a natural gas processing plant that employed foreign workers throughout northern Mozambique at the time. The ISIS loyalists laid siege to Palma from March 24-29, infiltrating local military barracks, homes, shops, and banks. ISIS formally claimed responsibility for the attack on Palma via its online propaganda outlet, the Amaq News Agency, on March 29. The international terror organization said the assault “resulted in the deaths of 55 Mozambican forces and Christians including contractors from outside the country.”