Nigerian Army releases 183 children cleared of Boko Haram ties

The Nigerian Armed Forces released 183 children on Monday, July 9, after clearing them of ties to Boko Haram militants, the United Nations Children’s Fund said in a statement.

“These 8 girls and 175 boys are first and foremost victims of the ongoing conflict and their release is an important step on their long road to recovery,” Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, said.

The children, aged 7-18, were released in Maiduguri, the capital of northeast Borno state. Fall said UNICEF would be working with the local Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, as well as other partners, to ensure the minors get all the needed assistance.

“The children will receive medical attention and psychosocial support before the process of reuniting them with their families and reintegrating them into society begins,” the statement said.

UNICEF did not specify how long the children were in administrative custody.

Nigeria has been plagued with attacks by Boko Haram militants since 2009. Over 1,000 minors had been abducted by the group since 2013, UNICEF said in April.

After escaping from Boko Haram, many children face new challenges in a very complex environment. Reunification with families can take time: villages in the countryside that many of the children would call home are often destroyed and abandoned, and tracking remaining family members is a task that can take months.

The integration process is also complicated by the fact that Boko Haram victims are often stigmatized. The group has been turning women and children into suicide bombers, and communities become fearful that the escapees could potentially present a threat to them.

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