Officials Say Child Soldiers Carried Out Burkina Faso Massacre That Killed at Least 138 People

Officials Say Child Soldiers Carried Out Burkina Faso Massacre That Killed at Least 138 People
Damaged buildings and huts at the site of an attack in Solhan, Burkina Faso, on June 7. (Burkina Faso Prime Minister’s Press Service/Reuters)

The deadliest massacre that Burkina Faso has suffered since extremists invaded the West African nation was perpetrated by mostly children, officials said, injecting fresh tragedy into the six-year conflict that has killed thousands.

A group of young boys helped carry out the early June attack that claimed at least 138 lives in the northeastern village of Solhan, government spokesman Ousseni Tamboura said.

“The attackers were mostly children between the ages of 12 and 14,” he told reporters this week in the capital, Ouagadougou.

The announcement comes as 10 percent of Burkina Faso’s schools have shuttered due to rising insecurity — a trend that researchers say makes children more vulnerable to abuse, human trafficking and combat recruitment.

Classrooms closed nationwide from March to June of last year because of the pandemic, and many students never returned. More than 300,000 children in the country have now lost access to education, according to the United Nations.

In 2020 alone, an estimated 3,270 children were recruited into armed groups in central and West Africa, the United Nations found. That accounts for more than a third of the world’s documented child soldiers.

“We are alarmed by the presence of children within armed groups,” Sandra Lattouf, Unicef’s Burkina Faso representative, said in a statement Thursday. “While living among armed actors, children experience unconscionable forms of violence including physical and sexual violence or high level of traumatic experiences.”

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Danielle Paquette and Henry Wilkins

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