“They are armed, they are with adults, on duty or on patrol, they have probably have already fought, many are no more than 14 years old”, said a MISNA source in Gao, northern Mali who confirmed the presence of numerous minors among the ranks of the rebel groups for a month took control of the north.
“There are (minors) among the mujahedeen of the Movement for the Unity of Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO),” says the source who prefers to remain anonymous for security reasons, “among the Salafis of Ansar al-Din and among the combatants of the National Movement Liberation dell’Azawad (MNLA). Both in Timbuktu and Gao, it is especially Mujao that is more present, having a force in terms of personnel and resources more powerful than the other groups in arms against the central government in Bamako.”
The presence of children from armed groups active in the north of Mali had been reported in recent days by some non-governmental organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Witness accounts collected by Human Rights Watch report that many adolescents took part in the armed looting that followed the fall of Gao, a major northern city. The same U.S. organization, citing local witnesses, then mentions that, during the last month, Ansar al-Din has launched in some areas a recruitment campaign that also involved adolescents in areas of Gao, Dire and Niafounke. The recruits are said to be undergoing training in a camp set up just a few kilometers from Gao.
“All this – says the MISNA source who, a few days ago, was also able to visit Timbuktu – adds to the daily harassment faced by the civilian population. The city lacks electricity, water and food. Those who can, try to escape heading across the border or driving south.”
The International Criminal Court (ICC) – as reported by its note of April 24 – is also observing the situation in Mali and considering a preliminary examination of the situation with particular reference to abuses against Women, murder, kidnapping and recruiting children