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UN organizations in Angola urge release of children abducted in armed attack

UN organizations in Angola urge release of children abducted in armed attack

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Angola are calling for the release of 60 children abducted over the weekend in an attack by an armed group northeast of Luanda.

"[We] were shocked and saddened by this past weekend's mass abduction of 60 Angolan children during an attack by an armed group near the town of Caxito," UNICEF Representative Anthony Bloomberg and UN Humanitarian Coordinator Ronald Sibanda said in a statement issued jointly today in Luanda, Geneva and New York.

UNICEF-Angola and the Humanitarian Coordinator said the attack demonstrated once again that children caught in conflict zones were often the first to suffer from abuses, deprivations and casualties.

According to the statement, the children were abducted in the early morning hours on 5 May during an attack on Children's Town, a home run by a non-governmental organization about 10 kilometres outside of Caxito. The children range in age from 10-18 years and include 9 girls and 51 boys. One of their Angolan teachers was also abducted. The current welfare and whereabouts of the group is unknown.

In addition to a number of civilian casualties, four Angolan humanitarian workers were also killed in the attack, including a doctor, two teachers and a support worker.

The motivation for the abduction is not clear, but children kidnapped in conflict countries are often used by armed groups to carry goods and ammunition and to cook and clean. In the worst cases, the youth - particularly girls - may be sexually abused, and both girls and boys may be used in combat, either as soldiers or as defensive shields, the statement said.

Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Sibanda strongly condemned all violent attacks against children and civilians, as well as attacks against the non-governmental organizations working to improve the lives of children in Angola.

Similar abductions have occurred throughout the country's long civil conflict. Most of the children taken are never heard from again.