One child a day slaughtered in battle for Afghanistan
One child a day is being killed in the Afghan war as both the Taliban and government forces recruit and exploit them, according to a United Nations report.
Militants are employing children as suicide bombers, while killing scores through the indiscriminate use of roadside booby traps and bomb attacks.
The Afghan police have also recruited boys as young as 12 into their fight against insurgents.
Fighting in the first half of 2010 killed at least 176 children and wounded 389 -- an increase of more than half from the previous year.
The real number is likely far higher, but difficult to measure because so much fighting takes place in areas made impenetrable by rebels.
The report by UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon said there were "grave violations and abuses committed against children" and called on all sides to do more to protect them.
The UN report said research had "confirmed allegations that children had been lured into carrying explosives or trained in conducting suicide attacks", often without their knowledge.
In one incident in the northern province of Samangan, insurgents put a bomb in a boy's wheelbarrow without his knowledge and he was killed when it detonated as he approached the governor's office.
Insurgents had also executed children as young as seven after accusing them of spying for Nato forces.
While around three-quarters of civilians are killed by insurgents, Nato forces have also killed children in airstrikes and bungled commando raids.
Afghan children were also being recruited to work in the police, the report found, despite regulations that policemen should be 18.
A lack of birth certificates, the ease of forging documents and the recruitment drive to build up the police and army were all responsible for youngsters joining up.
One boy aged around 12 was found armed and wearing uniform while searching vehicles at a police checkpoint in Kandahar. Children were also found working as cooks, cleaners and tea boys at checkpoints and police stations. (© Daily Telegraph, London)