Three Somali teenagers who won a Quran recitation contest have been rewarded with weapons and cash by the Islamist group Al-Shabaab, according to reports from Somalia.
The first-place winner was awarded an AK-47 rifle and $700, a report from RBC Radio said. Second place was worth an AK-47 and $500, and third place got two grenades and $400, RBC reported. Winners also received religious books.
The contest was organized by Al-Shabaab-controlled Radio Andalus, the report said.
At an awards ceremony in the Mogadishu neighborhood of Elasha, Al-Shabaab leaders urged the teenage winners to use their weapons.
‚ÄúWe want the children to fight for defending of their country and their religion¬†... ¬†just take these guns,‚ÄĚ Sheikh Moktar Robow abu Mansur, a senior Al-Shabaab leader, is quoted as saying. That means battling the Somali government and African Union peacekeeping troops in the country, according to the RBC report.
Pictures of the event have been posted on the RBC website and on an Al-Shabaab-affiliated website.
Al-Shabaab is a radical al Qaeda-linked group challenging Somalia's central government, fighting an endless civil war, and forcing a strict form of Sharia law on local residents.