Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) - A top UN official on Tuesday condemned the use of children in sectarian violence that engulfed the Central African Republic's capital last week, driving 6,500 people from their homes.
Claire Bourgeois, the UN humanitarian chief in the strife-torn country, urged militia leaders in Bangui to stop using and targeting children after at least three were killed in the latest clashes that also left a UN peacekeeper dead.
"I confirm the brutal killings of at least three children, including two boys who had been accused of spying and an eight-year-old shot by a stray bullet," she said in a statement.
At least 10 people died and up to 6,500 were forced to flee their homes in three straight days of clashes after months of relative calm in the capital of the former French colony.
"I condemn the recruitment and the use of children by armed groups," Bourgeois said.
"Humanitarian organisations have reported the presence of a large number of children at several barricades in Bangui. Recruitment of children is a serious violation of children's rights," she added.
Although calm has returned to Bangui since the weekend, the UNHCR said Tuesday that it was alarmed by the attacks which targeted "civilians, humanitarian workers and United Nations peacekeepers. The latest surge in attacks has badly hampered humanitarian activities," it said in a statement.
The most recent bloodshed was sparked by a grenade attack by a fighter from the mostly Muslim Seleka militia on October 7 that claimed four lives, it said.
The UNHCR called the attacks on humanitarian workers "a disturbing trend", and urged all sides to respect aid workers trying to help refugees.
Some 410,000 people have been internally displaced in the Central African Republic since a March 2013 coup plunged the country into chaos.