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Human Rights Watch reports surge in Taliban recruiting child soldiers

Human Rights Watch has found that an increasing number of children are being sent to fight by the Taliban. According to some reports, children as young as 10 have been recruited by the insurgents in Afghanistan.

At least 100

children were recruited and misused as fighters

in the Chahardara district of Kunduz province in 2015, according to a report published Wednesday by the rights group Human Rights Watch.

Although the Taliban have recruited child soldiers since the 1990s, local residents and analysts said they believe an increase in child soldiers over the last 12 months was largely due to the insurgents' major offensive in northern Afghanistan, which began in April 2015.

Under international humanitarian law, the deployment of people under the age of 15 is considered a war crime.

Poverty exploited

HRW said insurgents in Kunduz, which was a focus in the organization's research, are increasingly using Islamic religious schools for the military training of children. Students at some of these schools learn how to use weapons as well as how to build and plant bombs.

Children from poor families were more likely to be sent to such schools as the parents would be relieved of food and clothing expenses. HRW found that the indoctrination begins with children as young as six, with most child soldiers aged between 13 and 17.

The UN Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, said there were also reports that the Taliban in Kunduz had sent 10-year-olds into battle.

The Taliban have claimed, however, that they only recruit soldiers who have achieved "mental and physical maturity" and do not enlist "boys with no beards" for military operations.

Until 2014, Afghan troops were still stationed in Kunduz. By September 2015, however, the Taliban had temporarily occupied almost the entire province, of which they still control large parts five months later.

According to a new UN report on civilian casualties, the

number of children killed in the Afghan war increased by 14 percent

last year, with one in four deaths or injuries recorded as being a that of a child.

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