Islamists in Mali recruit, pay for child soldiers
Young fighters, including 13-year-old Abdullahi, right, and 14-year-old Hamadi, second right, display their Quranic studies notes for a journalist as their Islamist commanders look on, in Douentza, Mali on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012. (AP /Baba Ahmed)
The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, October 3, 2012 9:22AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 3, 2012 11:28PM EDT
MOPTI, Mali -- Islamists in northern Mali have recruited and paid for as many as 1,000 children from rural towns and villages devastated by poverty and hunger.
The Associated Press spoke with four children and conducted several dozen interviews with residents and human rights officials. The AP also saw several other children with machine guns half their size strolling down the streets in Timbuktu, where Westerners can no longer go because of the threat of kidnapping.
The interviews provide evidence that a new generation in what was long a moderate and stable Muslim nation is becoming radicalized, as the Islamists gather forces to fight a potential military intervention backed by the United Nations.
One 16-year-old said the Islamists offered his family up to $400 a month in exchange for his service.