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Nigerian militia frees more than 800 children from its ranks

JOHANNESBURG — The United Nations children’s agency says a self-defense militia in Nigeria has freed more than 800 children from its ranks as it combats Boko Haram extremists.

The agency calls this the first formal release by the Civilian Joint Task Force, which had been listed in an annual U.N. report on children and armed conflict.

The statement on Friday says 1,469 boys and girls associated with the militia group have been identified in Maiduguri, the capital of northeastern Borno state, alone.

Maiduguri is the birthplace of Boko Haram, which continues to carry out deadly attacks in the Lake Chad region. The Islamic extremist group has killed or kidnapped tens of thousands over nearly a decade and sent millions fleeing.

Boko Haram also has seized and indoctrinated children as suicide bombers.