Africa

UN alarm that most of al-Shabab's force in Somalia are kids

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he is alarmed at reports that children may constitute a large part of the force recruited and used by al-Shabab Islamic extremists in Somalia.

Guterres said it's estimated over half its force are children, noting that at least 60 percent of al-Shabab "elements" captured in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region in March 2016 were youngsters.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated this week, he said children were used in combat, with 9-year-olds reportedly taught to use weapons and sent to front lines. Children were also used in operations with explosive devices, as spies, and for carrying ammunition or performing domestic chores, he said.

While al-Shabab was the main perpetrator, the report said the Somali army and other groups also recruited and used children.