Bangui: At least two children have been beheaded in the fighting which has gripped the Central African Republic, the UN agency for children said Monday, adding “unprecedented” levels of violence were being committed against youngsters.
Unicef said that of the two children beheaded, one had also been mutilated.
It also said it could verify the deaths of at least 16 children and 60 injured since the outbreak of fighting in early December.
“We are witnessing unprecedented levels of violence against children,” said the Unicef representative in Central Africa, Souleymasne Diabate.
“More and more children are being recruited into armed groups, and they are also being directly targeted in atrocious revenge attacks.
“Targeted attacks against children are a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law and must stop immediately.”
Three weeks of conflict between Christians and Muslims have left some 1,000 people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands of others.
French and African troops are struggling to contain the unrest, which has wracked the majority Christian country since a March coup by mostly Muslim Seleka rebels who installed Michel Djotodia as president.
Djotodia has officially disbanded Seleka, but has proved unable to control the fighters who swept him to power, as the country descends further into sectarian violence.
Unicef said children forced into fighting by both sides in the conflict should be immediately disarmed and be protected from any reprisals. It also called for centres to be established for the “reintegration” of children as well as protect those still at risk.
The claims by Unicef came as figures released by Doctors Without Borders revealed they had treated more than 1,000 people in the capital Bangui throughout December.
In a statement, it said that in the past few days it had treated people suffering injuries caused by machetes, those who had received several stab wounds and some with other brutal injuries.
“We have also seen the arrival of people who have been tortured or brutally beaten. We also saw one case where a person had been impaled,” said the statement.
On the ground during Monday, the situation was relatively calm, with minor clashes between rebel groups in the north of Bangui leaving two people injured.
As the crisis continues, the European Union said on Monday that it would hold a high-level meeting on events in the Central African Republic in January.
The UN and donor countries, including former colonial power France, would be invited to attend the meeting aimed at easing the “humanitarian tragedy”, said aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.
She said the number of people needing aid was “increasing by the hour”. The meeting would take place on January 20.