Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Sunday, 25 October 2009

Somalis 'made to view executions'

By Mary Harper
BBC News

Islamist militants in Somalia
Militia groups are accused of trying to brainwash the young

Hundreds of people in Somalia have been forced to watch Islamist militants executing two people accused of spying.

People in Merca said al-Shabab militia patrolled the town with loudspeakers, demanding they attend the executions.

The militants also ordered schools to close for the day as they were keen for children to watch the two men being shot dead by a firing squad.

Most of those at the execution, on a patch of open ground, are reported to have been women and children.

It is becoming something of a pattern for al-Shabab to encourage young people to engage in violence.

It recently organised a quiz for young men in the southern town of Kismayo.

The prizes included AK-47 assault rifles, hand grenades and anti-tank mines.

The aim, said al-Shabab, was to stop young men from wasting time, and to focus on important things like defending their territory and their religion.

At the prize-giving ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of people, the militants urged parents to teach their children to handle weapons at an early age.

Somali children's rights groups say al-Shabab is intent on brainwashing the young to believe in violent Islamism.

In this way, it can ensure it has a steady supply of recruits, ready to fight for its aim of establishing extreme Islamist rule, not only in Somalia but far beyond its borders.

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