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Gun is Grand Prize in Al-Shabab Children's Contest

AK 47 rifle

AK 47 rifle

Somalia's al-Shabab Islamist group has awarded assault rifles and hand grenades to the winners of a children's Koran recital competition.

Andalus radio, which is run by the al-Qaida linked group, says the award ceremony was held in the town of Elasha, about 20 kilometers from the capital, Mogadishu.

Andalus says the first prize winner of the Koran recital contest received an AK-47 rifle and $700, while the second-place contestant won an AK-47 and $500. It says the third prize winner received two hand grenades and $400. All of the winners also were presented with religious books. The ages of the children were not disclosed.

Senior al-Shabab leader Mukhtar Robow told the ceremony that children should use guns to defend Islam.

It is the third year in a row that the group has held the children's contest. The winners of the first two competitions also were awarded weapons in al-Shabab ceremonies held in the southern Somalia port of Kismayo.

Al-Shabab controls much of southern and central Somalia, but government forces backed by African Union troops recaptured control of the capital in recent months.

The militants are battling to overthrow the fragile transitional government and impose a strict form of Islam known as Sharia.