More than 650 kids turned into child soldiers in S. Sudan in 2016

UNITED NATIONS — More than 650 children have been recruited into armed groups and forces in South Sudan since the start of 2016, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reports.

According to UNICEF, some 16,000 children have been recruited into armed groups since the crisis in South Sudan started in 2013. Last year, 1,775 child soldiers were released.

“At this precarious stage in South Sudan’s short history, UNICEF fears that a further spike in child recruitment could be imminent,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth said, as quoted in the fund’s Friday release.

An August 2015 peace agreement to end fighting in South Sudan collapsed in July. Reports of clashes between rival ethnic-based militias continue, despite a tentative ceasefire agreement.

The conflict in South Sudan erupted in December 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir of the Dinka tribe and Vice President Riek Machar of the rival Nuer tribe.

A UN peacekeeping force has been deployed in South Sudan since 2011. PNA/Sputnik/