Burkina Faso says most of attackers in village massacre were children

A massacre in north-east Burkina Faso in which more than 130 people were killed this month was carried out mostly by children between the ages of 12 and 14, the country’s government and the UN have said.

Assailants raided the village of Solhan on the evening of 4 June, opened fire on residents and burned homes. It was the worst attack in years in an area plagued by jihadists linked to Islamic State and al-Qaida.

A government spokesperson, Ousseni Tamboura, said the majority of the attackers were children, prompting condemnation from the UN.

“We strongly condemn the recruitment of children and adolescents by non-state armed groups. This is a grave violation of their fundamental rights,” the UN children’s agency Unicef said.

Despite interventions from UN peacekeepers and international armed forces, attacks by Islamist extremists continue unabated across west Africa’s Sahel region, including in neighbouring Mali and Niger.

Officials in Burkina Faso’s north, where jihadists control large areas, said child soldiers had been used by Islamist groups over the past year, but this month’s attack was by far the highest-profile case.

It represented a new low for the country that since 2018 has seen a sharp rise in attacks on civilians and soldiers. Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 1.2 million are displaced, Unicef said, many of whom have been forced into makeshift camps dotted across the arid north, east and centre.

More than 2,200 schools have been closed – about one in 10 – affecting more than 300,000 children.

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