MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – A number of Somali recruits have recently escaped an Eritrean camp after they were sent to train there by Somalia’s federal government following an agreement between the two countries and have returned home.
The news has sparked protests in the capital Mogadishu this week by parents demanding government explanation on the whereabouts of their missing sons and renewed fears by families that the boys might have been killed in the war raging in Ethiopia’s north.
The government of Somalia’s outgoing president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has not immediately answered requests by families for information about the whereabouts of the missing recruits, and previously denied there were youths sent to train in Eritrea.
More than 12 recruits broke out of an Eritrean training camp and traveled through Ethiopia to return to Somalia. Many of them were killed during the long journey and only 5 of them have managed to safely return home.
Parents of the recruits say they paid smugglers in Ethiopia – after their sons had contacted them – to bring them back home and expressed joy, even though their course-mates were not as lucky.
Somalia and Ethiopia’s intelligence services are now searching for the recruits to arrest them before they speak to media, according to Caasimada Online website. Some were contacted by the Somali intelligence agency, which offered large sums of money if they arrive at its headquarters and avoid leaking information to local media.
It comes months after dozens of Somali recruits trained in Eritrea were killed while fighting alongside Eritrean and Ethiopian forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region after being deployed there as cannon fodder. The deployment came following a deal between the presidents of the three Horn of Africa countries.
Parents of the youths who have escaped say they had completed training several months ago and had to travel back home before Somalia’s president urged Eritrea not to send them back to their country.
Over the past few months, there have been reports that Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, popularly known as Farmajo urged his Eritrean counterpart not send the recruits in certain camps back to Somalia due fear that leakage of sensitive information might tarnish his image and play havoc with his bid to win reelection.
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