The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the United Nations Children’s Fund condemn in the strongest terms the abduction of scores of boys, some as young 13, by an armed group near Malakal in the north of South Sudan.

“The recruitment and use of children by armed forces destroys families and communities,” said Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan, on Saturday.

“Children are exposed to incomprehensible levels of violence, they lose their families and their chance to go to school,” he added, urging the group to immediately release the children.

A UNICEF education team reported that 89 children were abducted in the community of Wau Shilluk in Upper Nile State, where thousands of people have been internally displaced by the ongoing conflict. The actual number could be higher.

According to witnesses, armed soldiers surrounded the community and searched house by house. Boys older than 12 years of age were taken away by force.

UNICEF reminded all parties involved in the conflict that the recruitment and use of children in armed forces and groups is a grave violation of international law.