More Than 160 Children Freed in CAR

More Than 160 Children Freed in CARMore Than 160 Children Freed in CAR

UNICEF said on Friday an armed militia group in Central African Republic has released 163 children, some of thousands who have been conscripted in jobs like cooks, messengers and even combatants.

The children were released at a handover ceremony in the northern town of Batangafo that was facilitated by the UN children’s agency and the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, AP reported.

Friday’s handover by the anti-Balaka group raises to 645 the number of children released as part of a deal among 10 armed groups in May to release all children from their ranks. UNICEF says it expects hundreds more will be freed by year-end.

The agency estimates that 6,000 to 10,000 children have been linked to armed factions since 2013, when deadly violence erupted in the impoverished country.

Clashes between rival militias in the past few days have forced several thousand people to flee their homes in the town of Bambari and seek shelter at a former cotton factory inside the compound of the UN peacekeeping mission, according to the UN refugee agency.

More than one million people have been displaced since rebels took the capital, Bangui, in March 2013. The country has been run by a transitional government since January 2014, after the rebels were forced out of the capital.