Children are forced into combat in 15 nations, including by the militant Islamic Taliban in Afghanistan, the al-Qaida terrorist network in Iraq and armed groups in the Darfur region of Sudan, according to a report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
"The movement of armed groups across borders to recruit children from refugee camps continues to be alarming," Ban wrote in an annual report mandated by the U.N. Security Council in 2006. "The lack of security around these camps is said to be an important factor that increases the likelihood of child recruitment."
The report, released Thursday in New York, includes what Ban called a "naming and shaming" annex of armed groups that recruit children. These abuses, including by some national armies, also occur in Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Uganda, Ban said.
The report said the Taliban has taken advantage of "weak governance" and inadequate protection by national security forces in Afghanistan to use children as human shields and suicide bombers.
Ban cited the "new tactic by insurgent group militias, al-Qaida and al-Qaida-affiliated groups of using children as decoys in suicide car bombings" in Iraq.
In Darfur and southern Sudan, scene of a 20-year civil war that ended in 2005, 15 different rebel groups and militias have forced children into their ranks, Ban's report said.
The Security Council is scheduled to address the report at an open debate on children in armed conflict on Feb. 12.