Nigerian military with young men rescued from suspected Boko Haram terrorists after an operation in Borno State, Nigeria, February 3, 2016. UNICEF said Boko Haram recruited 2,000 child soldiers to fight for the Islamist organization in 2016. File Photo by STR/EPA
Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The Nigerian insurgent group Boko Haram recruited 2,000 children to fight in 2016, a United Nations report released Tuesday said.
The data were part of a report indicating that at least 65,000 children, worldwide, were released from military and armed groups in the past 10 years. An estimated 17,000 children were recruited in South Sudan since 2013; there have been nearly 1,500 cases of child recruitment in Yemen the escalation of hostilities in 2015; and child soldiers in the Central African Republic have numbered 10,000, the report by UNICEF said. Of those released from military servitude, more than 20,000 were in the Democratic Republic of Congo, nearly 9,000 in the Central African Republic and 1,600 in Chad.
In northeastern Nigeria, more than 100,000 people have been killed in a seven-year conflict with the radical Islamist Boko Haram, and more than 2 million people have been displaced, Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima said on Feb. 13. Many of the Boko Haram combatants have been boys and girls under the age of 18, and thousands more are among the displaced.
Boko Haram also uses children as suicide bombers. An explosion at a Maiduguri, Nigeria, market in December killed at least one person; a local civilian militia leader, Abdulkarim Jabo, commented that the two bombers were girls who appeared to be about 7 or 8 years old.
"They got out of a rickshaw and walked right in front of me without showing the slightest sign of emotion. I tried to speak with one of them, in Hausa and in English, but she didn't answer. I thought they were looking for their mother. She headed toward the poultry sellers, then detonated her explosives belt," Jabo said.
The U.N. report came two days after it was disclosed that the humanitarian philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent $250 million on health and education programs, largely targeting children and families, in Nigeria in 2016.