Syrian forces killing and sexually abusing children, says UN
Source: The Guardian
Syrian government forces and militia loyal to the Assad regime are killing and sexually abusing children and using them as human shields, the UN says, amid fears that the conflict is intensifying.
Kofi Annan said he was "gravely concerned" about the escalation of fighting in Syria, citing the shelling of opposition areas in central Homs province and reports of mortar, helicopter and tank attacks in the town of Haffa and its surrounding villages in Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast. The US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland voiced fears about reports that the regime "may be organising another massacre" in Latakia, where UN monitors have been impeded.
The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's annual report on children and armed conflict during 2011 included Syrian government forces and the allied shabiha for the first time on a list of 52 governments and armed groups that recruit, kill or sexually attack children in armed conflicts. "In almost all recorded cases, children were among the victims of military operations by government forces, including the Syrian armed forces, the intelligence forces and the shabiha militia, in their ongoing conflict with the opposition, including the Free Syrian Army," the report said.
The report quoted a witness to an attack on the village of Ayn l'Arouz in Idlib province on 9 March 2012 in which several dozen boys and girls between the ages of eight and 13 were forcibly taken from their homes and "used by soldiers and militia members as human shields, placing them in front of the windows of buses carrying military personnel into the raid on the village". The UN said it had collected dozens of witness accounts from children as young as 14 who were tortured in detention, as well as from former members of the Syrian military who were forced to witness or carry out acts of torture, the report said.