Awil Salah Osman prowls the streets of this shattered city, looking like so many other boys, with ripped-up clothes, thin limbs and eyes eager for attention and affection.
But Awil is different in two notable ways: he is shouldering a fully automatic, fully loaded Kalashnikov assault rifle; and he is working for a military that is substantially armed and financed by the United States.
“You!” he shouts at a driver trying to sneak past his checkpoint, his cherubic face turning violently angry.
“You know what I’m doing here!” He shakes his gun menacingly. “Stop your car!”
The driver halts immediately. In Somalia, lives are lost quickly, and few want to take their chances with a moody 12-year-old.