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Grim toll on Syrian children: UN report cites torture, execution

The UN's annual report on children and armed conflict notes that children in war zones are never exempt from violence, but that the plight of Syrian children is especially shocking.

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A Syrian revolutionary flag waves on top of a building on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, June 12. The UN accused the Syrian government of using children as human shields in a new report released Tuesday.

AP

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Syria’s violence is taking a particularly grim toll on Syrian children, the UN reports, with boys as young as 10 being detained and tortured and infants facing execution in their beds or being burned alive.

The United Nations’ annual report on children and armed conflict, released Tuesday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also singles out a militia loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as being the perpetrator of some of the conflict’s most extreme attacks on children.

Of course children in conflict zones are never exempt from violence, as the annual report underscores. The report finds that children in 22 countries are subject to warlike violence and grave violations committed by more than 50 governments, militias, and armed groups.

The annual UN report for the first time cites the Taliban in Afghanistan for resorting increasingly to attacks on schools. The Taliban have recently stepped up the targeting of girls’ schools by poisoning their water supplies, in numerous cases sickening scores of girls attending class.

But the violence against children caught up in Syria’s 15-month-old conflict is especially gruesome and shocking, UN officials say.

Citing eyewitness accounts and the testimonies of former Syrian soldiers who deserted the armed forces, the report lists cases of children being used as human shields by soldiers entering opposition strongholds, children being detained and tortured, and cases of child sexual abuse.

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