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Forgotten victims.

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Children in Afghanistan suffer more than in any other country in the world from violence, war and poverty, and sometimes become suicide bombers, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said. Afghan children were not only caught up in fighting between Taliban rebels and international forces, but there was evidence of an increasing number ending up on the frontlines. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN's Special representative for Children in Armed Conflict, said Afghan children were the "forgotten victims" of more than three decades of war and violence. "I can't think of any country in the world where children suffer more than in Afghanistan," Cooma-raswamy told reporters.

She said her organisation was to present a comprehensive report on the plight of children in Afghanistan to the United Nations Security Council in October. Children in Afghanistan are suffering "not only because of the terrible violations due to war, but also the terrible poverty and hard work they have to endure," she said. "When meeting with children there, it takes a lot of time to make them smile," she added.

Coomaraswamy said she met many children who became victims of violence by Taliban and other anti-government factions as well as operations by international forces. She said she had meetings with the commanders of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the US-led coalition to find ways to "minimise these collateral damages with clear directions and procedures."

She also said that UNICEF had "credible information that in the last few months there has been an increase in the number of children being in combat."

"We also have reports of individual cases of suicide bombers," she said. She urged all parties involved in violence in Afghanistan to follow what she said was a Taliban edict banning young boys from fighting. "Talibans have stated that mujahedeen (holy warriors) are not allowed to take young boys with no facial hair onto the battlefield or into their private quarters," she said.

"We urge all parties, especially the anti-government elements, to take action to prevent children from being used in the battlefield."

There were also allegations of sexual violence by some Afghan military and police commanders, she told a press conference, adding there was a danger youths detained by international forces could become "harder individuals and only feed the cycle of violation."

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jul 4, 2008
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