October 17, 2009 / 1:06 PM / 10 years ago

Somali rebels give AK-47 to best young koran reciter

KISMAYU, Somalia, Oct 17 (Reuters) - The 17-year-old winner of a Koran recital and general knowledge competition organised by al Shabaab rebels in Southern Somalia got an AK-47 gun, two hand grenades, a computer and an anti-tank mine as prizes.

The runner-up in the month-long competition aimed at 10-25 year olds, a 22-year-old, received an AK-47 and ammunition at the ceremony, where the rebels urged parents to allow children to learn how to handle weapons and fight against the enemy.

Somalia’s 18-year conflict now pits al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam rebels against the U.N.-backed government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

The radical al Shabaab, seen by Washington as al Qaeda’s proxy, controls most of Southern and Central Somalia and has also been targeting Somali children in neighbouring Kenya for radicalisation and recruitment to their ranks. [ID:nLG337811] (Reporting by Sarah Abdi; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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