According to a new Save the Children analysis, fighters in northern Mozambique have abducted dozens of children during races in 2020.
The charity said in a report Wednesday “kidnapping of children has become a new and alarmingly regular tactic by armed groups” in the province of Cabo Delgado, where escalating fighting over the past three-and-a-half years has killed nearly 3,000 people and displaced more. of 700,000, half of whom are children.
Save the Children said “at least 51 children, most of them children” were abducted by non-state armed groups in the region last year, adding that the numbers involved were probably “much higher” than their estimates. , which were based on data collected by the Armed Conflict Situation Project and Event Data and reflect only the cases reported.
He warned that the victims are at risk of sexual violence, early marriage and being used as fighters in the conflict.
“Being kidnapped, witnessing kidnappings, experiencing attacks, being forced to flee armed groups – these are extremely traumatic events for children and adolescents,” said Chance Briggs, Mozambique’s country director for Save the Children.
Attacks by an armed group known locally as al-Shabab, whose origins, analysts say, are imbued with local political, religious and economic discontent, have steadily increased in the province of Cabo Delgado since October. 2017.
The sophistication of the attacks is also increased.
ISIL-linked fighters (ISIS) have sacked cities and gained control of main roads, destroying infrastructure and beheading civilians. In some cases, they forced locals into their ranks or held them as sex slaves.
Since August 2020, fighters have controlled the main port city of Mocimboa da Praia, while in March, they launched a coordinated assault on the city of Palma, killing dozens and forcing more than 67,000 to flee their homes.
A video of the group distributed in August last year – filmed in Mozambique or the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the US SITE Intelligence Group – showed three children armed with flanking flanked by adults in front of them. an ISIL banner.
“The abduction of a child constitutes one of the six serious violations against children in times of conflict, as defined by the UN. It is against international humanitarian law and can be a first step towards war crimes such as ‘and forced coercion of children or sexual violence against children,’ ”Briggs said.
“Every day spent by abducted children outside their community is one too many, and the risks of abuse, early marriage and pregnancy increase over time.”
It calls for the immediate release of the children
Save the Children demanded the immediate release of all abducted children and that the perpetrators be held accountable.
He said the children were sometimes targeted for kidnapping in large groups, citing an attack where 21 people were abducted in a group, including six children.
“In that same incident, at least seven fishermen were beheaded,” he said.
In another attack in June 2020, 10 girls were caught pulling water from a well, he added.
The charity highlighted the recent abduction of a 14-year-old girl after the March 24 attack on Palma. She and her family had fled in August 2020 from their fishing village to seek refuge in the city.
But seven months later, “armed men entered Palma and forced the family to flee again.” On the way to seek safety, the family was abducted by gunmen. They all ran away from their eldest daughter, ”he said, citing the teenager’s father.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had registered more than 2,600 appeals in Mozambique between September 2020 and April 2021 from people who have lost track of family members, most of them which are young adults and children.
“There are a very large number of unaccompanied children [who are] extremely vulnerable to all forms of abuse and exploitation, ”said James Matthews, deputy head of the ICRC mission in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo.