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UNICEF says terrorists’ increasing use of children as bombers is disturbing

Marie-Pierre Poirier UNICEF's regional director for West and Central Africa

The United Nations Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF has condemned terrorist groups’ increasing and forceful use of children to carry out suicide bombings.

Marie-Pierre Poirier, Unicef’s regional director for West and Central Africa says the very sight of children near marketplaces and checkpoints is sparking fear and has caused nearly 1 500 children  to be detained last year across Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. “These children are victims, not perpetrators,” Poirier said. “Forcing or deceiving them into committing such horrific acts is reprehensible.”

According to a report released Wednesday April 19 by the UN children’s agency, at least 117 attacks have been carried out by youth in the Lake Chad basin region since 2014, with nearly 80% of the bombs strapped to girls, who were sometimes drugged before their missions.

Wednesday’s report coincides with this weeks’ third anniversary of the mass abduction of Nigerian Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The mass abduction of 276 girls from a boarding school in Nigeria mobilised an international campaign to find and free the girls, many of whom were forced into marriages with fighters and became pregnant. In the report, Unicef emphasised that beyond the high-profile Chibok abductions, the practice of kidnapping children and forcing them to associate with the armed group has been prevalent.

“Young girls are spotted in the markets, and nighttime raids drag them from their beds. In some cases, parents are killed in front of the girls during the process,” the report said. “This is typically followed by an extended journey to a Boko Haram base in the forest where the girls are forced into early marriage and sexual slavery.”

The children’s fund in its report also called on the community to help reintegrate children who were once under Boko haram’s control, saying many are stigmatised and feared.

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