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Kids Rescued From Al-Shabab Sent to Radical Rehab

FILE - A youth leads a group of hard-line Islamist Al Shabab fighters as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu's Suqaholaha neighborhood, Somalia, Jan. 1, 2010.

Somalia's government says it will send 35 children rescued from an Al-Shabab camp last week to rehabilitation centers for ex-militants before reuniting them with their families.

Abdirashid Ibrahim Mohamed directs the government program to re-integrate former Al-Shabab foot soldiers and low-risk defectors from the group back into Somali society.

He told VOA's Somali service the children must have religious lessons aimed at guiding them away from radical views of Islam.

“We are still investigating how long the kids, who are under 18 years old, have been in the Al-Shabab indoctrination center and how far they were radicalized. We should tell them the right way of life before they reunite with their families," he said.

He said U.S. and Somali special operations forces recovered the 35 children during a raid on an al-Shabab camp at Jamea Jidyale, a village approximately 70 kilometers west of Mogadishu.

The next day, the operation was reported by VOA, quoting then Somali Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman, who has since replaced Thabit Abdi Mohammed as mayor of Mogadishu.

On Wednesday, the U.S. military confirmed the January 18th operation and reported the forces that took part in the mission.

In a statement AFRICOM said, “During the mission, the Somali National Security Forces received hostile fire and in the ensuing firefight, five 'enemy combatants' were killed and six were wounded. Some of those killed appear to have been under the age of 18.”

Somali government officials involved in the operation said U.S. soldiers provided advice and the helicopters that transported the Somali forces to the raided camp, but did not fire their weapons during the operation.

The U.S. military has grown increasingly active in Somalia, targeting Al-Shabab leaders through airstrikes and helping to train federal government soldiers.

The African Union mission in Somalia, AMISOM, has said it will withdraw its troops by 2020 and leave security in the hands of Somali authorities.