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Children among Maoist combatants discharged in Nepal

Former child soldiers take part in a farewell ceremony at a Maoist camp in eastern Nepal, on January 7, 2010.
Former child soldiers take part in a farewell ceremony at a Maoist camp in eastern Nepal, on January 7, 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • More than 200 people were discharged from Maoist camp in Nepal
  • They are former fighters and other members of the Maoist People's Liberation Army
  • Part of a group deemed "disqualified" by United Nations findings in 2007
  • Their discharge is seen as in important part of the Nepal's ongoing peace process
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(CNN) -- More than 200 former fighters and other members of the Maoist People's Liberation Army -- including minors -- were discharged from a Maoist camp Thursday in line with Nepal's ongoing peace process, officials said.

Those being discharged were part of a group deemed "disqualified" by United Nations findings in 2007, which identified at least 4,008 such combatants -- including 2,973 minors.

The "disqualified" status applied to anyone under the age of 18 who was serving in the liberation army, and those who joined the Maoist group after its 10-year insurgency to abolish the country's monarchy ended in 2006.

More than 15,000 died in the fighting and more than 100,000 people were displaced, according to the United Nations Web site.

Nepal became a republic in 2008 following elections in which the people voted to abolish the monarchy.

"Those who left the Sindhuli camp today are no more members of the [Maoist] People's Liberation Army," Nanda Kishore Pun, commander of the Maoist People's Liberation Army, told CNN in a phone interview from Sindhuli, about 150 km (93 miles) southeast of Kathmandu.

The discharge process is expected to end in about a month.

As part of the rehabilitation package for the disqualified combatants, the United Nations has offered to provide vocational skills training and education up to high school to those who want such opportunities, but Pun said that these offers are still being discussed.

The process of the discharge is seen as in important part of the Nepal's ongoing peace process. The Maoists and other political parties in the country are discussing ways to integrate the 19,602 verified Maoist combatants into Nepal's security forces -- a move that made up part of the peace deal signed in 2006 to bring the peace process to a conclusion.

Once the minors remain out of the command and control of the Maoist military structure for six months to a year, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) can be considered for removal from the list of parties that recruit and use children, which is included in the annual U.N. Secretary-General's report on Children and Armed Conflict.

As the discharge and rehabilitation process began, about a dozen of the disqualified combatants were listed as being under the age of 16 and about 500 were under the age of 18. Though called combatants, the United Nations said the minors were used as messengers, cooks and porters during the fighting.