CHILDREN AT RISK IN SYRIA, IRAQ BATTLEGROUNDS, U.S. SAYS

Children in Iraq and Syria are imperilled by a host of armed groups, who actively seek, and often force, their recruitment, the U.S. State Department said.

The department's annual report on human trafficking, detailed accounts of vulnerable children, forced on to the battlefield, sometimes by government-funded groups.

In Iraq, children are "highly vulnerable to forcible recruitment and use" by Daesh, government-backed Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, tribal fighters, Iran-backed militias and the PKK, the report said.

In the country's north, the PKK and the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), "forcibly recruited and used Kurdish and Yezidi boys and girls, some as young as 12 years old, in combat and support roles," the report said.

"The Iraqi government reportedly pays the salaries of the YBS," it added.

The State Department further noted that youth in Turkey joined the PKK, a designated terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US, "sometimes under coercion."

In neighbouring Syria, where conflict has raged since 2011, the US said, the use of child soldiers has become "commonplace," noting a documented increase of such cases in 2016.

It said, the Syrian government continues to forcibly recruit child soldiers "subjecting children to extreme violence and retaliation by opposition forces; it did not protect and prevent children from recruitment and use by pro- government militias, armed opposition forces, and designated terrorist organisations, such as the Daesh.

The department also singled out the PKK/PYD in its assessment, saying, it continues to use child soldiers, some as young as 12, despite a 2014 pledge to "demobilise all fighters younger than 18 years old".

Turkey views the PKK/PYD as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, but the US has relied extensively on it as its primary partner in the ground war against Daesh in northern Syria.--

Source: NAM News Netwrok