Status: 13.09.2021 07:35 a.m.
According to a report by Amnesty International, at least 60 children in Niger have been killed by Islamist terrorists so far this year. Other children were abducted, recruited as soldiers or forcibly married.
In the Sahel state of Niger, according to Amnesty International, a growing number of minors are being killed by jihadist groups or recruited into their ranks. Armed groups have repeatedly attacked schools in the Tillabéri region in the west of the country, the human rights organization said in a 57-page report. In the current year, more than 60 children in the region bordering Mali and Burkina Faso have been killed by Islamist extremists.
“Islamic State” and Al-Qaeda
Many children in the region have suffered trauma after witnessing fatal attacks on their villages. In some areas, women and girls are at risk of being kidnapped or forcibly married by the jihadists. The so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and the Al-Qaeda offshoot in the Sahel (JNIM) are primarily responsible for the violence. Both groups committed war crimes, murdered civilians and attacked schools.
The recruitment of boys aged around 15 to 17 by JNIM has also increased significantly, according to the report. After the withdrawal of the Nigerien authorities and security forces from large parts of the region, the children are defenseless on their own, said the Africa expert from Amnesty International, Franziska Ulm-Düsterhöft. “In some cases, Nigerien security forces have inflicted additional harm on the population through arbitrary detention and killings.”
Witnesses also described how the Nigerien security forces often only arrived long after the attacks, despite incoming emergency calls. The Nigerien government has to protect the children better, and the European countries that are militarily active in the Sahel have to support the Nigerien authorities in this, demanded the organization.
In many places women and girls are not allowed out
For the report, Amnesty said it interviewed 119 people, including 22 minors. “In Niger’s Tillabéri region, an entire generation is growing up in the midst of death and destruction,” said Ulm-Düsterhöft. “In some areas women and girls are not allowed to leave the house because they run the risk of being kidnapped or forcibly married to fighters,” the organization said.
The EU supports the five Sahel countries Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in fighting Islamic extremists. Germany also has soldiers in the region, especially in Mali. Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 420 civilians were murdered in southwestern Niger between January and July 2021. The borders are considered poorly secured.