The United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative for Children and Armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, said on Tuesday that many of the young girls Boko Haram sent out as suicide bombers in Nigeria and neighbouring countries were probably unaware that they were carrying bombs that would be detonated remotely.
In recent months the Boko Haram militant group has been using women and young girls as suicide bombers in northeast Nigeria, northern Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Zerrougui claimed that in particular the young girls used as suicide bombers were not aware of what would happen in many cases.
"Many of them don't know that they will be blown up with remote devices," Zerrougui told reporters, highlighting that many of the girls are 11 or 12 years old.
"I personally doubt that the children know," Zerrougui said, adding that security forces had warned the UN that the bombs are often detonated remotely.
"That means that it is not the person herself who did it," she said.
Zerrougui said that the use of young people as suicide bombers was one of the worst manifestations of an increasingly blatant disregard for the safety and security of minors in conflict situations throughout the world.
Thousands of young people are used as soldiers while childen as small as five-years-old are used as human shields on battlegrounds by militant groups such as DAESH or the anti-Balaka militia in the Central African Republic, Zerrougui said.
"This is the worst form where children are really put in danger and their bodies are really used as a weapon," she added.
Zerrougui said that she has condemned the increasingly serious circumstances of children caught up in conflicts since she began to serve in her role for the UN.
However, “every year [the situation gets] even worse," and 2015 was no exception, she said.
"I can say that 2015 was really a difficult year for children all over the world where conflicts are ongoing," she added.
The world is suffering from six major conflicts, including in Syria and Yemen. Besides this, there are 20 protracted conflicts which are currently threatening the lives of children throughout the world, Zerrougui said.
"We have thousands of children killed, maimed, schools attacked and children by the thousands recruited in many places," she said
"Children are not only affected, they are specifically targeted."