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UNICEF: Burundi's Hutu Rebels Abduct Children - 2001-11-13


The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says Hutu rebels in Burundi have abducted more than 100 Burundian children from border camps in Tanzania. The agency says the rebels also are continuing to abduct children in Burundi's northeastern province of Ruyigi.

UNICEF has said the Hutu rebels have kidnapped 107 children from camps in Tanzania in the past three days.

UNICEF spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte says the agency so far has not been able to trace the whereabouts of the children and is fearful of what may happen to them. "Some of these children could be recruited as child soldiers. There is a history of that in Burundi, when children are abducted in a situation like this, it could be to use them as child soldiers. In the case of girls, often to use them as domestics. In the case of boys and sometimes girls as well, to use them as messengers in the conflict that is going on in the country," she said.

UNICEF has said Hutu rebels also began abducting children from Ruyigi province in Burundi last week. They reportedly abducted about 200 children and burned two schools and a health center in Ruyigi.

UNICEF spokeswoman Belmonte describes the situation in the province as confusing and dangerous. "People are running scared. We now have four camps of internally displaced people. There are close to 9,000 people in these camps. Close to 6,000 of them are children, 204 of them are unaccompanied. The situation has become so dangerous that the governor has decided to close down 25 schools for fear that they will be attacked again," she said.

Ms. Belmonte said a few of the abducted children have been able to escape from the rebels. But she said the majority, remain in rebel custody.

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