'Rise in use of children in suicide attacks in W Africa'
The abduction of 276 Chibok girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria three years ago marked a defining feature in the conflict in the Lake Chad region which has since witnessed an increasing use of children in so-called 'suicide' attacks, says a UNICEF report.
Since January 2014, 117 children more than 80 per cent of them girls have been used in suicide attacks in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon (the four together forming the Lake Chad basin/region), said the report 'Silent Shame: Bringing out the voices of children caught in the Lake Chad crisis', released on the third anniversary of the abduction of girls."A defining feature of this conflict has been the increasing use of children in so-called 'suicide' attacks," the report said. The increase reflects an alarming tactic by Boko Haram.
So far, four children in 2014, 56 in 2015, 30 in 2016 and 27 only in the first three months of 2017 have been used to carry out bomb attacks in public places across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, the report said, adding that girls have been used in the vast majority of these attacks.
The Islamic State-linked militant group Boko Haram had kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a secondary school in Nigeria's northeastern town of Chibok in April, 2014. While some girls managed to escape, 21 were released last year after negotiations with the militant group. However, as many as 195 girls still remain missing even as the Nigerian Defence Minister General Manir Dan Ali was recently quoted as saying that it may take "years" to find all the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by the militant group.
UNICEF regional officer Patrick Rose said the children in the lake Chad basin face a range of challenges. "More than 1.3 million have been displaced, many have lost loved ones and witnessed extreme violence. They're struggling to get back to school, back to normal life. Several thousand children have been abducted by Boko Haram and need additional support to help the return to their families and find a sense of hope," Rose said.
On the relief works going on in the affected countries both at the government and at the non-governmental level, he said humanitarian response is reaching millions of people with health care, water, food and education.
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