AN ISLAMIST-backed Â radio station in Somalia has awarded prizes of assault rifles and hand grenades to children who entered a Koran-reciting contest.
According to a report in the Guardian today, Andalus radio, run by al-Shabaab militia, said that the first prize was an AK-47 and Â£450. The runner-up received an AK-47 and Â£320, while the child who came third received two F1 hand grenades and Â£250.
The three children also received religious books.
Al-Shabaab controls much of southern Somalia and is trying to overthrow the transitional government in Mogadishu. Designated a terrorist organisation by several western governments, the group has links to al-Qaida and practises an extreme version of Islam.
The report says that n certain areas the hard-line Islamist leaders have banned musical ringtones, films, football broadcasts, dancing at weddings and even shop signs written in English or Somali, rather than Arabic. Punishments include double amputations and stonings. Amnesty International says the rebels have also systematically recruited children under 15 to fight for them.
The Koran babbling contest has been running for three years and takes place after Ramadan. The two previous award ceremonies have occurred in Kismayo, an al-Shabaab stronghold on the far southern coast. In 2009, prizes included hand grenades, anti-tank mines and an AK-47.
The winners of that contest were between 17 and 20 years old, but the age of this year’s winners, who represented the towns of Elasha Biyaha, Kismayo and Mogadishu, are not known.