Children are new targets in Central Africa’s conflict

BANGUI, January 4, 2014 (AFP) – In the latest violence to rock the crisis-prone and poor Central African Republic, children have become deliberate targets of armed gangs, mainly because of their family’s faith, aid workers say.

“Before now, children were collateral victims, but today some of them are targeted directly,” said Ombretta Pasotti, who coordinates work by the Italian NGO Emergency at the paediatric hospital in Bangui, which took in the first child casualties.

“Attacks against children have sunk to a vicious new low, with at least two children beheaded, and one of them mutilated, in the violence that has gripped the capital…,” the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a December 30 statement.

In all, UNICEF said it had verified 16 killings of children since December 5, while 60 more youths were wounded in clashes that have broken out between Muslim former rebels and militias from the Christian majority.

The UN agency’s representative in CAR, Souleymane Diabete, said that in addition to “being directly targeted in atrocious revenge attacks”, more and more children were being forced to join the armed groups.

UNICEF appealed to sectarian fighters to “halt grave violations against children”, to release those in their ranks and to avoid attacks on health and education workers.[Full report]