Police have arrested nine suspects, including two women allegedly the spouses of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) leaders in the Butaleja district.
In the joint intelligence led operation, security forces said that they also rescued 59 children who were allegedly recruited into an ADF domestic cell and were being radicalised.
Addressing the press in Kampala, police spokesperson Fred Enanga revealed that the two women were highly linked to the ADF suspects including Ali Kabanda alias Mao, who attacked police in Busiika and other police stations in the central region.
According to Enanga, the joint security forces are working tirelessly to wipe out ADF sleeper cells across the country and informed the public that all persons arrested are not targeted for their beliefs, ideology, religion, but are pursued for their acts of conspiracy and hostile engagement that are in total breach of the law, peace and safety of Ugandans.
“Like we have always indicated, the attacks and hostilities against Ugandans are from a known enemy, the ADF, whose aim is to promote fear and panic in the public. As a result, we have been monitoring all spaces in homes, places of worship which are acting as domains for recruitment and collection centres, for children who are introduced to ideological messages and beliefs,” he said.
He said that ADF has been targeting vulnerable children especially those living in poverty whom they recruit through various tactics like use of force as well as purchase from child traffickers.
“Sometimes recruitment is done based on ties between the terrorist group and particular communities; especially when the group is perceived as one that is defending the interests and groups of that particular community against threats, they may encourage children to join the group,” he said.
Investigations also revealed that suspected terror cells are also recruiting vulnerable children through extending financial support, food, accommodation and protection to encourage loyalty.
During the recruitment process, the police spokesperson told the press that terrorists also target girl children because they have a greater propaganda value, as they tend to garner more media attention than attacks by their male counter parts.
“Children, particularly girls, are increasingly being used as spies for delivering messages, carrying materials and under taking suicide attacks. The reasons for this are often pragmatic, children have less understanding of the risk they face and therefore, display less anxiety,” he said.
It was also established that girls execute orders and are less are less suspicious, which can be a crucial asset, for instance in getting closer to targets.
Another reason is effectiveness, as the girls do not conform to traditional security profiles and they tend to raise less suspicion and thus have an increased likelihood of successfully carrying out attacks or support roles.
Meanwhile, Police is identifying parents to the victims for their statements and caution them against handing over their children to such anti-democracy actors, who are bent on using their children as actors of violence and impunity, for their selfish gains.
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