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Kidnapped Syrian children used as human shields, activists say

By Samira Said, CNN
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri June 15, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Anti-government activists say 20 children were taken from Homs' Baba Amr neighborhood
  • They blame government security forces and pro-government thugs
  • Roundup happened after rebels destroyed a government checkpoint, they say
  • CNN can't confirm report, as the government restricts access by international journalists

(CNN) -- Government security forces and pro-government thugs have abducted about 20 children from the embattled Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs and are holding them as human shields, anti-government activists told CNN.

The roundup of the children, ages 10 to 13, occurred Tuesday, a day after an opposition battalion of Free Syrian Army soldiers seeking to enter Baba Amr destroyed a government checkpoint that had blocked their passage and from which snipers had routinely killed civilians, said an activist in Homs, who goes by the nom de guerre Abo Bakr Saleh.

Omar Shakir, an activist from Baba Amr who now lives in Tripoli, Lebanon, said he also spoke to families in Baba Amr and an FSA commander in the region, and confirmed the reports.

Though Baba Amr was largely emptied in February, when government forces relentlessly shelled the neighborhood, a number of people who couldn't to afford to move elsewhere returned to their houses a month later, Saleh said.

"The parents couldn't do anything," Saleh said. "The FSA tried to take over Baba Amr, but they saw their children being used as human shields so they could not."

While CNN was speaking with Saleh, who was near Baba Amr, explosions could be heard in the background. "The government shelling has begun," he said.

CNN has not been able to confirm this report, since the government restricts access to the country by international journalists.

Also, a U.N. report issued this week said the Syrian regime has used children as human shields and tortured youths whose parents are suspected dissidents.

The report on children and armed conflict details accounts of juveniles allegedly abused by pro-government forces and came as a top U.N. official said the conflict in Syria has spiraled into a civil war.

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