Jihadist group al-Shabaab ‘training village elders to fight’

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Somalia-based jihadist group al-Shabaab has been training clan elders in the southern region of the country on how to use guns to shoot accurately, media outlets affiliated to the group have reported.

The training is the latest attempt by the militants to win the hearts of local residents to help in their cause.

A radio station and a website operated by the al-Qaeda-affiliated militants broadcast and published pictures of elderly men holding guns in what appears to be a shooting range, as a huge crowd looks on.

Radio Andalus said about 40 elders from different clans took part in the shooting competition which involved men between the ages of 60 and 80 in Jilib, Middle Jubba Region, southern Somalia.

“Each elder was given three bullets to fire to a target placed 60 steps away,” a reporter with Radio Andalus said.

“Every elder was carrying an AK47 rifle… the elders had practised shooting before the contest.”

The Islamic militant group often holds events to seek the support of the residents in the areas that the militants control.

In the past, they have organised various sports activities, including arrow shooting, tug of war and breaking of mud pots.

Al-Shabaab has waged a decade-long war in Somalia, seeking to oust the government and institute a strict sharia-based system of governance.

The war has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions more.

The African Union Mission in Somalia has battled the extremist group for years, managing to reclaim towns from them and force the militants into hiding.

President Mohamed Abdullahi however pledged to crush the militants, urging Somali citizens to join the government in the fight to ensure a peaceful country.

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