Child soldiers mostly responsible for Burkina Faso massacre, officials say
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.
- They are often kidnapped, drugged and brainwashed, researchers say.
- 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.