Sudanese children as young as 14 are reported to have been offered up to $10,000 to fight in Yemen’s civil war.
Rabat – Experts from the US State Department’s anti-human trafficking office have determined that Saudi Arabia has recruited child soldiers from Sudan to fight in Yemen’s civil war.
Supported by news reports and assessments by human rights groups, the State Department experts have recommended that Saudi Arabia be added to an official list of countries that recruit child soldiers.
However, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has shut down the reports.
The Saudi-led coalition deploys up to 14,000 Sudanese soldiers in Yemen at any given time since 2016. Recruits, some as young as 14, have been offered up to $10,000 for their service.
Some State Department officials have argued that the Sudanese soldiers in the coalition are affiliated with Sudan’s military, not Saudi Arabia’s.
Sudan was removed from the list of countries that use child soldiers last year but will now be reinstated, according to State Department sources. Officials from Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces have denied the recruitment of minors, but did not comment specifically on activities in Yemen.
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which is backed by the US, has previously denied the use of child soldiers.
However, an independent group of experts to the UN Human Rights Council reported in 2018 that all sides in the Yemen conflict “conscripted or enlisted children into armed forces or groups and used them to participate actively in hostilities.”
Saudi Arabia is a major ally of the US and a primary arms customer. Pompeo’s move comes as US tensions with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, continue to swell.