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Somali men ‘forced into Eritrean army’ under impression they were signing up for security jobs in Qatar

The Telegraph | The men are thought to be being sent to Tigray to fight in Ethiopia’s civil war.

Anger is mounting in Somalia over allegations young men are being secretly recruited and sent to Eritrea to fight in Ethiopia’s civil war.

Three families told Reuters their young sons had officially been recruited by Somalia’s government to work in Qatar, only to later find out they had been sent to Eritrea and forced to serve as soldiers.

Ali Jamac Dhoodi, 48, told the news agency he thought his son was working as a security guard in Qatar to help prepare for next year’s football World Cup. But he said he was later told by Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency that his son had died in Eritrea.

“They showed me a picture from their WhatsApp and asked me, ‘do you know this picture and his full name?’ I said, ‘yes he is my son,'” Dhoodi, 48, said. “They said to me ‘your son died’. I cried.”

Others said their sons, who had originally been sent to Eritrea for military training, were sent to fight in the Ethiopian civil war. Mothers have led rare protests in the capital Mogadishu demanding to know where their children had been sent, and some lawmakers have written to Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo asking for information.

“I heard that our children who were sent to Eritrea for military training have been taken and their responsibility was turned over to [Ethiopian Prime Minister] Abiy Ahmed to fight for him,” Fatuma Moallim Abdulle, the mother of 20-year-old soldier Ahmed Ibrahim Jumaleh, told The Associated Press.

“According to the information I gathered, our children were taken straight to Mekele city,” the capital of the Tigray region, she said. “You may understand how I feel, I am a mother who carried her child for nine months in my belly, that’s my blood and flesh.”

Eritrea is accused of involvement in the conflict pitting its neighbour Ethiopia’s federal government against the rebellious leaders of the northern Tigray region. Witnesses have accused Eritrean forces of massacring civilians and pillaging villages in the embattled region.

The United States on Thursday said it had pressed Eritrea’s government to immediately withdraw its troops from Ethiopia.

Somalian and Ethiopian authorities have denied Somali troops are being deployed in Tigray. Ethiopia and Eritrea have consistently denied reports of Eritrean troops fighting in the conflict, despite extensive Telegraph reporting and the video of an Ethiopian general pointing to the contrary.

The Qatari government responded on Friday by saying it condemned any false recruitment initiatives and urging relevant governments to investigate any abuses.

“The State of Qatar reiterates that any genuine offers of employment in Qatar will always come through official channels and approved recruitment agencies or Qatar Visa Centres,” it said in a statement to The Telegraph.

“We urge all individuals seeking employment in Qatar to confirm any offers they receive with these official channels or the embassy, prior to acceptance.”