'Nepal's children caught in cycle of violence'

Thousands of children have been killed, raped, tortured or recruited to fight in areas of insurgency-wracked Nepal were fighting has recently escalated, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

The London-based human rights group said both sides have violated the fundamental rights of children. It accused security forces of killing children suspected of helping the rebels, and accused the rebels of killing children of soldiers and policemen.

Other children have been victims of bombings and attacks on civilian targets, it said.

“This conflict is a disaster for the children of Nepal,” Amnesty’s Purna Sen said in a statement.

“Some children have been directly targeted by one or other party to the conflict, while hundreds more have died from bombs and improvised explosive devices.
Thousands of children have been forced to flee their homes and face desperate poverty and exploitation.”

The rebels have allegedly used children in the war against the government as messengers, spies and to carry supplies and ammunition. They have also abducted thousands of students for a few days to indoctrinate them with their revolutionary ideology, freeing them later.

“While most of these children return home after a few days, some do not and it appears that the rebels are recruiting children for military activities and forced labour, despite the fact that the use of children under 15 in armed conflict is a war crime,” Amnesty said.

“Nepal’s children are being caught up in the cycle of violence that is gripping the country. They are abducted and recruited by the Maoists and then become targets for the security forces, placing them at risk of detention or even killing,” Sen said.

The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, have been fighting since 1996 to overthrow the country’s monarchy. The insurgency has left more than 11 500 dead.

Security forces would not comment on the allegations. The rebels are in hiding and cannot be reached for comment. - Sapa-AP

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