REPORT: Syrian government forces are detaining and torturing children with rebel links
Troops largely responsible for grave violations against children, United Nations says
Syria's most innocent victims, children swept up into the winds of war, are suffering the worst of it, according to a United Nations report. U.N. Chief Ban Ki-Moon says that Western-backed opposition groups in Syria are recruiting refugee children in neighboring countries and Syrian government forces are detaining and torturing children with rebel links.
Armed opposition groups have recruited and used children in support roles and for combat, according to the United Nations.
"The suffering endured by the children in the Syrian Arab Republic since the outset of the conflict, as documented in this report, is unspeakable and unacceptable," Ban said in the report, which was posted online this week.
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It's the first such report to the U.N. Security Council that details the worsening extent of the problem, covering the period March 1, 2011 to Nov. 15, 2013.
Armed opposition groups have recruited and used children in support roles and for combat, Ban says.
"The lack of education or job opportunities and peer pressure were identified as key factors leading to the recruitment of refugee children," Ban said in the report.
"Of particular concern were cases of recruitment or attempted recruitment of children within refugee populations in neighboring countries. The majority of incidents were related to recruitment by Free Syrian Army-affiliated groups or Syrian Kurdish armed groups," Ban added.
The Free Syrian Army is formed from a loose alliance of moderate rebel groups, which is run by the Supreme Military Command. Western and Arab powers have tried to build it into a force to topple President Bashar al-Assad, but the group has been losing the support of rebel brigades to an Islamist alliance.
Both the nations of Saudi Arabia and Qatar have backed the Supreme Military Command with weapons, training, money and intelligence. The United States and Britain have given non-lethal aid, such as like communications and transportation equipment.
Both the U.S. and Britain suspended non-lethal aid to northern Syria in December after reports that Islamist fighters seized Western-backed rebel weapons warehouses, highlighting fears that supplies could end up in hostile hands.
In the meantime, more than two million people - mostly women and children - have fled Syria's conflict, which began in March 2011 with popular protests against President Bashar al-Assad. The conflict swiftly spiraled into civil war after a crackdown by security forces.
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