Hundreds of boys in South Sudan have been kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers, the United Nations children’s agency says
. The figure is a big increase on the 89 child abductions reported by Unicef last month.
Their latest statement blamed a militia group allied to the government.
South Sudan is in a state of civil war with
forces loyal to President Salva Kiir pitted against rebels led by former
Vice-President Riek Machar. The campaign group Human Rights Watch has
accused both sides of using child soldiers.
“We fear [the children] are going from the
classroom to the front line,” said Unicef’s representative in South
Sudan, Jonathan Veitch.
Witnesses report seeing children as young as 12 carrying guns, according to the UN.
The seizure of the boys happened in an area
known as Wau Shilluk, in oil-rich Upper Nile state. The UN believes
12,000 children were used as child soldiers across South Sudan last
About 1.5 million people have been displaced by the fighting in the country and 2.5 million are facing severe food shortages.