Jun 24, 2021 - World

Child soldiers mostly responsible for Burkina Faso massacre, officials say

Photo of a desert area with an enclave of green trees

Kaya in northern Burkina Faso. Photo: Giles Clarke via Getty Images

A group of young boys helped carry out an attack in Burkina Faso that killed at least 138 people earlier this month, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: It was one of the deadliest massacres in years in the West African country, which has struggled to hold off multiple insurgencies, including from groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, per the Washington Post.

Driving the news: The attack in the northeastern village of Solhan was mostly perpetrated by children between the ages of 12 and 14, government spokesman Ousseni Tamboura told reporters this week.

  • It was unclear which group instigated the attack. Officials did not offer further details.

What they're saying: "We are alarmed by the presence of children within armed groups," Sandra Lattouf, UNICEF's Burkina Faso representative, said in a statement to the Post. "While living among armed actors, children experience unconscionable forms of violence including physical and sexual violence or high level of traumatic experiences."

The big picture: The crisis in Burkina Faso has killed hundreds of people and displaced more than 1.2 million, 61% of whom are children, according to UNICEF said. One in 10 schools have closed, which has impacted over 300,000 children.

  • Experts say the school closures have made children more vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and recruitment into gangs or combat.
  • In 2020, armed groups in Central and West Africa recruited roughly 3,270 children into their ranks — more than a third of the world's documented child soldiers, according to the United Nations.
  • Children abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria have said the extremists threatened to kill anyone who refused to participate in the attacks, the Post reports.
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