Dubai: Syrian Opposition forces recruited a 14-year-old boy from Homs as a fighter and had a child take part in beheading two government soldiers, according to a United Nations report citing human rights abuses by both sides in Syria’s civil war. The report said that children had been taken hostage, forced to watch torture and even participate in beheadings.

While abuses by the opposition haven’t reached “the intensity and scale” of those committed by President Bashar Al Assad’s forces and affiliated militias, they are becoming increasingly common and brutal, according to the report presented to the UN Human Rights Council yesterday.

The report is based on 430 interviews with victims and witnesses. It was produced by a four-member commission investigating war crimes in Syria.

The 29-page report highlighted the increase in mass executions and kidnappings by the opposition, and about 86 child soldiers have been killed during combat, it said.

Earlier this year another report by the global non-profit organisation Save the Children detailed how some young boys are being used by armed groups as porters, runners and human shields, bringing them close to the frontline, while some girls are being married off early to ‘protect’ them from a widely perceived threat of sexual violence. “My daughter is 16 and she loved school. She is innocent and very pretty. I know that men are hurting women. We could not protect her, so we had to marry her. We needed her to have a protector,” Um Ali, mother of two was cited as saying in the report.