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The Libyan Afterparty Continues: Child Soldiers in Mali

If and when African Union forces intervene to save Mali from Islamist extremists they will probably be met by child soldiers wielding machine guns. More than a thousand kids (probably many more) have been conscripted by the various fighting groups now stalking Mali’s northern deserts. The fighters pay big money: $30 per day for the soldier, and sometimes as high as $4,600 per year to his family, according to an Associated Press investigation. What a sad story this is:

Across northern Mali, Islamists have plucked and paid for as many as 1,000 children from rural towns and villages devastated by poverty and hunger, The Associated Press has found in several dozen interviews with residents, human rights officials, four children or youth and an Islamist official. 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. [...]

Mali human rights officials also put the total number of children recruited by the Islamists considerably higher than U.N. estimates at 1,000, based on accounts from the major cities of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. Officials said at least 200 child soldiers are operating in Mali’s fabled town of Timbuktu alone. [...]

“The Islamists are distributing money and food to their parents, so the children have no choice,” said El Boukhari Ben Essayouti, Secretary-General with the Malian Human Rights Association in Timbuktu. “It is poverty and misery that are pushing these children toward them.”

“Once you’ve taken the money and eaten, it’s a done deal,” recalled Salif [a child soldier] … “You’re there until you die or the war is over.”

Seemingly every day there is more evidence confirming that the U.S. “humanitarian” war in Libya was a blunder even from the standpoint of humanitarianism itself.

Idealism can be one of the deadliest — and most addictive — of drugs.

[UPDATED]

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