09/21/2011 03:35 pm ET Updated Nov 21, 2011

Somali Radio Station Awards AK-47 As First Prize In Competition For Children

A Somali radio station with ties to a militant Islamist group awarded rifles and grenades as prizes in a Koran-reciting competition for children.

The Irish Times reports that Andalus radio, which is run by the al-Shabab militia group, awarded the assault rifle and $700 to the winning child. The second-placed child didn't miss out, taking home an AK-47 and $500. Third place received a pair of F1 hand grenades and $400.

The three winning children also received religious textbooks.

Pictures of the children being awarded their prizes were posted on a website linked to the rebel group.

The al-Shabab group is linked to al-Qaeda and has been engaged in a violent struggle with the transitional government in Mogadishu.

A spokesperson for the group explained the thinking behind the contest. The New York Times quotes Sheik Muktar Robow Abu Monsur, a leading figure in al-Shabab as saying: "Children should use one hand for education and the other for a gun to defend Islam."

The exact ages of the children who won the dangerous prizes are unclear. The Daily Mail reports that the contest was organized for children between the ages of 10 and 17.

BBC News reports that this is the third year that the contest has been held. In previous years, winners have been given an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade launcher).

An al-Shabab senior propaganda official, Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin, told those in attendance at the prize-giving ceremony that the group would continue giving weapons to children, and urged young and old alike to join its ongoing war, according to