Tuesday, July 28, 1998 Published at 06:33 GMT 07:33 UK
World: South Asia
The child bombers of Sri Lanka
Many Sri Lankan children become Tamil Tiger fighters each year
Unicef estimates there are around 500,000 children fighting in various wars throughout the world, particularly Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Uganda.
In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers, who are fighting for a separate homeland, have been employing children in their guerrilla forces for seven years.
One young Tamil recruit said she knew how to lay landmines and operate machine guns and pistols by the age of 13.
"The leaders came to our school and said we had to join the army in order to rescue our country," she said.
"After three months I was sent to my first operation. It was an attack on an army checkpoint and I was equipped with grenades."
The risk of being killed or injured is not the only threat to the lives of the Tamil child bombers.
All new recruits are given cyanide capsules with instructions to swallow them if captured to avoid giving military secrets to their enemies.
But a recruitment officer for the Tamil Tigers insisted that no pressure was being put upon youngsters to join the LTTE.
"It is not the Tigers who are recruiting young people, it is the government who are driving the children to the Tigers," he said.
"A young person loses a parent - they feel real anger and they vent this anger by joining the Tigers."