'The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is recruiting Sudanese child soldiers from war-torn Darfur to serve on the front lines, according to a new report claiming children as young as 14 comprise up to 40 percent of some units.
Reports from Sudanese soldiers who’ve returned from Yemen indicate up to 14,000 Sudanese have been fighting for the Saudi-led coalition. Most hail from Darfur, a region still mired in chaos after a prolonged and bloody war that saw 300,000 people killed and 1.2 million displaced from their homes, and many are children, according to a shocking report from the New York Times.
So few are opportunities in war-torn Darfur that some families actually bribe militia officers to take their sons to fight in Yemen, according to the report. The Times interviewed five fighters returning from Yemen who confirmed children as young as 14 comprised at least a fifth of their units. Two soldiers said the proportion was closer to 40 percent.
The Sudanese mercenaries were literally cannon fodder, directed from afar through radio headsets and GPS by Saudi and Emirati commanders who preferred to maintain a safe distance from the front lines, according to soldiers who fought for the coalition. “They treat the Sudanese like their firewood,” said combat veteran Ahmed, who would not allow his full name to be printed for fear of government retaliation.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen is known to pad its ranks with mercenaries – including former US soldiers, controversially. But American soldiers aren’t cheap, and the Saudis have been recruiting young veterans of the Darfur conflict to get more bang for their buck. Many of these are veterans of the Janjaweed tribal militia whose brutality aroused international outcry during the Darfur conflict, where they are held responsible for committing war crimes including systematic rape, murder of civilians, and genocide.'
Read more: Saudi-led coalition accused of using Sudanese child mercenaries ‘like firewood’ to fuel Yemen war
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