UNICEF says no fewer than 1.5 million children are at risk due to violence in central Congo, including 600,000 who have been displaced from their homes.

Violence has mounted between the army and the Kamwina Nsapu militia since its leader, who opposed central government influence in parts of the Kasai region, was killed in fighting in August.

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Tajudeen Oyewale, a UNICEF representative for Congo, who recently visited the area said children are enduring “horrific ordeals” in the Kasai region.

“Hundreds of children have been injured in the violence, with reports of children detained, raped, and even executed,” Oyewale added.

He said that no fewer than 300 children have been seriously injured, while more than 4,000 have been separated from their families.

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The UN said about 2,000 children are being used by militias in the region, the statement added.

The world body said they are often used as military scouts or as guardians of objects believed to have magical powers.

UNICEF said no fewer than 350 schools have meanwhile been destroyed, while in the province of Kasai Central, one-third of health centres are no longer functional, UNICEF said.

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UN investigators have documented 40 mass graves in Kasai Central and Kasai Oriental provinces since August.

Soldiers killed at least 74 people, including 30 children, during clashes with the Kamwina Nsapu in late March, according to reports gathered by UN investigators.

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