Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 13:16 UK

Somali children invent war game

Children in Jowhar are now playing "Islamists and Ethiopians"

A group of young children in a Somali town are playing their own form of the "Cowboys and Indians" game - "Islamists and Ethiopians".

This involves them pretending to be Islamist insurgents - setting up roadblocks and attacking passers-by with toy weapons.

In recent weeks, the real insurgents - know as al-Shabab - have carried out a number of attacks on Ethiopian troops.

Ethiopian forces are in Somalia in support of the transitional government.

Al-Shabab's tactics include attacking vehicles, briefly capturing towns, killing government soldiers, stealing weapons and then withdrawing.

The town of Jowhar has seen a number of recent attacks, but the BBC's Ibrahim Moalimu who is based there, was still surprised to find children under the age of 10 pretending to be insurgents and describing their sticks as RPGs and AK-47s.

Their commander, Abdi aged 11, told him they did not go to school, so were pretending to be the al-Shabab militia.

And he said their aim when they grow up was to be fighters.

The UN has said that Somalia is the worst place in the world for children to grow up.

The UN children's fund called for the creation of safe zones for about 1.5m children, whose lives it says have been affected by conflict.

Ethiopian troops last month raided a mosque in the capital, Mogadishu, and detained more than 40 boys they said they suspected were being trained as insurgents.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

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