UNICEF: Mali militants recruit, abuse children


A still from a video shows Islamist militants sitting on the ground with their weapons after destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu on July 1, 2012. Islamist militants in northern Mali reportedly forcibly recruited 175 children between the ages of 12 and 18, according to a UNICEF report released on July 6, 2012.



Mali militants are recruiting and sexually abusing children, said UNICEF on Friday, according to the BBC.

The United Nations' Children's Fund reported that at least 175 boys between the ages of 12 and 18 have been forcibly recruited by the Islamist militants in the north of the country.

According to the report, at least 8 girls were raped or sexually abused and two boys, aged 14 and 15, were killed in separate incidents by explosions. The report said 18 children were maimed.

UN officials also said that cases of cholera were rising at alarming rates since the Tuareg rebels and Islamist fighters linked to Al Qaeda seized the northern regions in March, according to the Associated Press.

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UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said school closures had made 300,000 children more vulnerable to violence and possible recruitment.

"These numbers are reason for alarm especially because they represent only a partial picture of the child protection context in the north – an area where access for humanitarian workers is limited," Mercado said in Geneva, according to the AP.

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According to the report, children in the desert region are also facing a nutritional crisis, putting 560,000 Malian children at risk for malnutrition, according to Agence France Presse.

UNICEF said only 21 percent of its appeal for $58 million for 2012 was met, AFP reported.

Mali has been plunged into chaos since March 22, when soldiers ousted the government in a coup over its failure to end the Tuareg rebellion in the north. The coup allowed the Tuareg to seize key towns, only to be displaced by the Islamist militants who are affiliated with Al Qaeda. The militants recently destroyed ancient Muslim shrines, AFP noted.

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