Right group says use of child soldiers by Nepalese rebels has increased

Nepal's communist rebels abducted thousands of children during a four-month truce that ended early this year and have used them in recent attacks on government targets, a human rights group said Friday.

"Thousands of children were abducted during the cease-fire and many of them were forced to stay" with the rebels, Anna Neistat of the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in Katmandu.

The rebels, who have been fighting to topple Nepal's constitutional monarchy, declared a unilateral cease-fire in September last year but withdrew in January after the government refused to reciprocate.

While violence decreased during the truce, the rebels abducted thousands of students from rural schools for a few days to indoctrinate them with their revolutionary ideology. Some were later freed but many were forced to bear arms for the rebels, Neistat said.

She and other Human Rights Watch representatives spent three weeks interviewing child soldiers drafted by the guerrillas and later detained by government forces.

The rebels have repeatedly denied using children in their fight against government troops, but the United Nations and other rights activists say boys and girls are used by the guerrillas as fighters, fixers and spies.

Neistat said many rebel cadres were under age 16 but it was hard to say exactly how many child soldiers there were.

"They carry grenades and arms and are trained to use them," Neistat said. "Most of them were forcefully recruited,"reports the AP.


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