DAKAR, Senegal – The U.N. children's agency says Islamic militants from Boko Haram are increasingly forcing children to carry out bombings, with the number of attacks since January already nearly reaching the total for all of last year.
UNICEF says in its report Wednesday that at least 117 attacks have been carried out by youth in the Lake Chad basin region since 2014, with nearly 80 percent of the bombs strapped to girls, who were sometimes drugged before their missions.
Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF's regional director, says the very sight of children near marketplaces and checkpoints is sparking fear. As a result, nearly 1,500 children were detained last year across Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
Poirier says the children are victims, not perpetrators: "Forcing or deceiving them into committing such horrific acts is reprehensible."