Vig­i­lantes vow to stop us­ing child fight­ers

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD -

A vol­un­teer vig­i­lante group that formed to sup­port Nige­rian forces in the fight against Boko Haram signed a United Na­tions­backed agree­ment Friday to root out chil­dren from its ranks.

The 30,000-mem­ber “Civil­ian Joint Task Force” (CJTF) has helped the mil­i­tary push the Is­lamists from towns across the north­east since 2013, as well as pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity for camps host­ing peo­ple up­rooted by Boko Haram’s eight-year in­sur­gency.

Yet the CJTF has drawn crit­i­cism from ac­tivists who ac­cuse its mem­bers of abuses in­clud­ing ex­tor­tion and rape, and a U.N. re­port last year said the group had re­cruited chil­dren.

Un­der the agree­ment, which was backed by the U.N. chil­dren’s agency (UNICEF) and the Nige­rian govern­ment, the CJTF has vowed to stop chil­dren from join­ing or fight­ing for the group, and to iden­tify and re­lease mem­bers younger than 18.

Boko Haram’s cam­paign to cre­ate an Is­lamic state has killed at least 20,000 peo­ple, up­rooted 2.7 mil­lion and sparked one of the largest hu­man­i­tar­ian crises in the world, aid agen­cies say.

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