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183 children held by Nigeria army released

ISLAMIST MILITANTS: The children were initially held because authorities believed they had links to Boko Haram

THE NIGERIA army has released 183 children who were being detained on suspicion of having links to the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

The children – 175 boys and eight girls – were freed in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

Unicef’s executive director, Henrietta H. Fore, said: "Progress is possible. Just today, the Nigerian army released 183 children — children who were detained for alleged association with Boko Haram. The result of intense effort and engagement for their release.

"As we work for many more children’s release, we must also support these young lives as they re-integrate into their communities.”

After being cleared of any connection with Boko Haram, the children – whose ages range from eight to 18 years – were moved to a centre run by the state.

The Nigerian office of Unicef has said it will support the Borno authorities in handling and assisting the children, who are currently receiving medical treatment.

Mohamed Fall, Unicef’s representative in Nigeria, said: “We will be working with the Borno State ministry of women affairs and social development and partners to provide the children with all the assistance they need. I also want to commend the action taken by the military and the authorities, it demonstrates a clear commitment to better protect children affected by the conflict.”

Once their medical and psychological assessments and treatment is complete, the children will rejoin their families.

Children who have been detained can face stigma when returning to their communities.

Speaking yesterday in New York at the Security Council debate on children and armed conflict, Fore said: "We must invest in local solutions that address community fears and concerns, while giving these children the chance at a normal life that they deserve. Including through quality education, training in life skills and work skills and psychosocial support.”

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