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Mother fears 10-year-old son fighting in Marawi

Woman calls for troops to spare children fighting alongside militants after seeing picture of boy resembling kidnapped son
Mother fears 10-year-old son fighting in Marawi

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Philippine separatist group, has released more than 800 child soldiers over the years as part of its work with the United Nations. (Photo by Mark Navales)

Published: August 29, 2017 09:34 AM GMT
Updated: August 29, 2017 09:36 AM GMT

A mother whose three year-old child was abducted in 2010 from their Manila home begged military officials Aug. 27 to spare children fighting for an Islamic State-inspired rebel group in the southern island of Mindanao, saying she believed one of them could be her long-lost son.

Rowhanisa Abdul Jabar, a resident of Dagupan, Tondo, Manila, made her appeal after seeing social media posts of child fighters in Marawi.

Media reports have identified children — anyone under the 18 year Philippine recruitment age — as young as 10 fighting in the country's south.

One of them bore a striking similarity to her son, Azramie Magondacan also known as Ram-Ram, she told ucanews.com.

Jabar said a servant abducted Azramie while she was working in her shop. The servant was later arrested, but Jabar's son and the servant's accomplices were never found.

"I've had a hard time moving on," Jabar said. "Then I saw these child fighters. One of them looks like my son."

"Sometimes, I pray it's not him. It is too painful to think of a son who has become a fighter for the IS," Jabar said in a phone interview.

She appealed to soldiers in Marawi to ensure the safety of child fighters.

"I hope they do not kill them. If that is really my son, I hope he survives the fighting. I would like a DNA test to know the truth," Jabar said.

Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of government forces fighting in Marawi, has confirmed the media reports that children have been spotted fighting alongside the Muslim rebel groups.

"Our soldiers have a soft spot for young fighters but they are forced to shoot them if they get too threatening," Brawner told reporters.

"Once time, they saw a boy running. He was not carrying a gun so they did not shoot. But the next day, the same child was firing at them, so they did not have a choice," said Brawner.

Col. Edgar Arevalo, Armed Forces public affairs chief, said rescued civilians also confirmed that children are among the enemy fighters.

The U.S. State Department reported that separatist groups in the southern island of Mindanao released last year more than 170 child members.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's biggest separatist group, said it had released 800 child soldiers over eight years as part of a United Nations effort.

But breakaway groups of the MILF were also reported recruiting children these past two years. The Abu Sayyaf, a smaller, extremist organization, is believed to have scores of children fighting or serving in a supporting role.

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