Somalia says to investigate child spies’ allegations

Somalia’s government said Monday it had launched an investigation into allegations that its intelligence agency is using children who defected from militants ranks as spies as parts of its counterterrorism efforts against the Al-Qaeda linked fighters in the horn of Africa nation.

The Washington Post newspaper reported this week that boys were used for years as informants by the country’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), citing interviews with the children and Somali and U.N. officials.

According to the Post, they were then marched through neighbourhoods where al-Shabab insurgents were hiding and told to point out their former comrades.

“The Federal Government would like to affirm that it has in the past and now extended pardon to any person who defects from the terrorist group Al Shabab,” said Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, Somali prime minister in a statement issued Monday.

“And in particular the brainwashed children who defect are granted protection and rehabilitation program back into the society.” He added.

Mr. Sharmarke had however refuted the allegations, but declined to give further details.

For years, Somali government rebel fighters in Somalia had been accused of recruiting children as soldiers to their ranks, allegations routinely denied by Somali government.

Rights groups that documented child recruitment cases in Somalia reported that the country’s government has recruited, maimed and killed children in armed conflict, despite claiming to respect their rights and international laws.