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Boko Haram and the Children’s Crusade

Soldiers in Boko Haram (Jerome Delay/AP Photo)
Soldiers in Boko Haram (Jerome Delay/AP Photo)

 

LAGOS (The Daily Beast) — “I was asked to kill my parents on the day I was captured,” said 16-year-old Babagana, a former Boko Haram child slave. “I had no courage, so they killed them in front of me.”

“That is how Boko Haram operates,” he told me when I saw him in March in Borno State. “They first take out your parents so you have no one else to fall back to.”

This may be the most tragic fact about the fight raging in northeast Nigeria:  It is a war waged by children against children. Minors make up nearly a quarter of Boko Haram’s soldiers. Some recruits are as young as 10 and are inducted by raids on villages. They are brutalized and forced to commit atrocities on fellow kidnap victims and even on their own families. Militants kill children who attempt to escape from captivity.

Recently village militias have been enlisting young kids to fight against Boko Haram, as well. And the plague is spreading.

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