A massacre in Burkina Faso in which more than 130 people were killed was largely carried out by child soldiers took place on June 24th.
Burkina Faso government spokesman Ousseni Tamboura told reporters that the attackers were “mostly children between the ages of 12 and 14.”
The government did not provide further details about the children involved in the attack or which group carried it out.
The announcement comes as 10 percent of Burkina Faso’s schools have shuttered due to rising insecurity — a trend that researchers say makes children more vulnerable to abuse, human trafficking and combat recruitment.
In 2020 alone, an estimated 3,270 children were recruited into armed groups in central and West Africa, the United Nations found.
The UN report also said more than 8,500 children in total were used as soldiers last year in various conflicts across the world and nearly 2,700 others were killed. It listed more than 850 attacks on schools and hospitals.
“This is a grave violation of their fundamental rights. We recall that civilian populations should never be victims or targets of attacks. Families and children should be protected everywhere at all times,” UNICEF representative in Burkina Faso Sandra Lattouf said.
“We are alarmed by the presence of children within armed groups,” Sandra Lattouf, Unicef’s Burkina Faso representative, said in a statement on June 24th. “While living among armed actors, children experience unconscionable forms of violence including physical and sexual violence or high level of traumatic experiences.”
At least 138 people were killed in the attack in the village of Solhan earlier this month.
Local officials in Burkina Faso’s north, where jihadists control large areas, said child soldiers have been used by Islamist groups over the past year, but this month’s attack was by far the highest profile case.
Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 1.2 million are displaced, UNICEF said, many of whom have been forced into makeshift camps dotted across the arid north, east and centre. Over 2,200 schools have been closed – about one in ten – affecting over 300,000 children.
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