UN gets release of 876 children detained by Nigeria military
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The United Nations has negotiated the release this year of 876 children detained at a Nigerian army barracks holding suspected collaborators of the Boko Haram Islamic extremist group, the U.N. Children's Fund announced today.
The agency fears hundreds more children are still being held at the barracks in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the UNICEF spokeswoman for Nigeria, Doune Porter, told The Associated Press.
This is the first time the U.N. has reported negotiating the releases, though Nigeria's army routinely reports how many minors are among the hundreds of detainees it frees after interrogations it says establish they have no links to Boko Haram.
Some of the 876 children released since December had been living in areas held by Boko Haram and were detained when those areas were liberated, according to Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF's director for West and Central Africa.
Porter said many of the freed children were under 5 years old, some still being breast-fed, and were detained because their parents were suspects. Nigeria's military and police routinely lock up children along with parents suspected of a crime.
In the biggest single release negotiated by UNICEF, 560 people were freed in September, including 430 children and some of their mothers, Porter said.