8 Jan 2010

Nepal's former child soldiers being freed

9:01 pm on 8 January 2010

Thousands of former Maoist child soldiers in Nepal have begun leaving camps for former rebels where they have been held since a 2006 peace accord.

The children have been in UN-monitored camps with other ex-rebels. The release is a key part of the peace process, the BBC reports.

Some former Maoist rebels were to be integrated into the army but disagreement over how this should be done has led to political deadlock.

The Maoists won elections in 2008, but left the government last year in a row over their leader's attempt to fire the army chief. The latter had refused to allow the integration of former rebels into the army.

In total, almost 20,000 former Maoist rebels have been living in seven main camps in Nepal. Those recently discharged were part of a group of about 4000 classified as "disqualified fighters" by the UN because they were either under 18 during the war or because they joined the army after the conflict ended.

They will be offered retraining or a chance to go to school.