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Sunday, 18 April 2010

Somalia: Al-Shabab paying $400 to every new recruit?

When Dahir Abdi joined the Somali extremist group Al-Shabab early last year, his motive had more to do with money than with God.
Back home in the Barawa district of southern Somalia, his parents and younger brothers and sisters were living on less than a single meal per day. His mother was too weak to fetch firewood to sell in the market, and too poor to buy the all-covering veil that was now required by Al-Shabab.
So when a recruiter from Al Shabab (whose name means “the youth” in Arabic) gave him $400 and the promise of a regular salary, Dahir joined willingly. He knew that even if he didn’t survive the war, his family would have a better chance to ward off starvation.
By the time Dahir arrived for six months of training at a camp in the densely forested southern coastal town of Ras Kiamboni, it was clear that he was just one of hundreds of young recruits preparing for war. It was clear, too, that deserting from Shabab – which has declared its allegiance to Al Qaeda – would be dangerous.
“When they recruited me, I was told I am going to fight against the African Union troops and against the Transitional Government, which didn’t want an Islamic government,” says Dahir, a talkative young man with a lean frame, who deserted Al Shabab late last year and now lives in hiding. Looking nervously from side to side as he spoke with a reporter in the Dagahley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, he continues. “I was given $400 before I left home, and this I gave to my father and bid my family goodbye. They didn’t want me to leave. My father looked at me in tears and prayed for my safe homecoming.”

So, where does Al-Shabab get the money to pay so many recruits? Obama has recently freezed the assets of 11 individual who were helping Al-Shabab and of Al-Shabab itself, a move that should be followed by other countries and that should have been taken so long ago.

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