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British Army launch program to combat suicide bombers

By JULIAN SHEA | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-08 09:27
Britain's Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson arrives for a Brexit subcommittee meeting at Downing Street in London, Britain, May 2, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

The British Army is about to send a specialist training team to work with victims of sexual violence and exploitation in some of the world's most dangerous areas, to help them avoid being recruited as suicide bombers.

The group will initially operate in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, where extremist groups such as al-Shabaab and Boko Haram have previously used female suicide bombers.

Crucially, female soldiers will be used to break down barriers with local communities. British troops will train local forces while also putting across the message that some of the people they are dealing with, such as child soldiers, are victims themselves.

"Women, and even children, are increasingly being used as suicide bombers, so it's not only to get intelligence, but it's also to search people, so having a woman as part of the patrol gives the ability to (do that)," British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson told The Guardian newspaper.

"It's not just the right thing to do because you want to stop an evil act, but it's also the right thing to do because it makes places and people more secure."

However, he insisted it was not a case of British forces turning up and telling the locals how they should do things, it was about empowering local communities.

"In every country we operate in, we look at how we tailor our approach," he said. "It isn't about lecturing people, it's about sharing information and knowledge and the fact that, by doing this, it will help them do the job and stay safe."

He also emphasized the importance of using female soldiers.

"Women will talk to women and the (peacekeepers) have been finding a lot more information in Somalia about what is going on in the local community and how organizations such as al-Shabaab are operating."

Williamson also stressed the importance of teaching how to deal with children soldiers.

"They … aren't joining because of ideology, they're literally being forced by the evil terrorist groups to join up and be part of this conflict," he said.

"(We can) train (peacekeepers) to give them education and skills so hopefully we can maybe give them a childhood back, give them the opportunity to have a normal life."

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