Children are being killed, tortured and raped by both sides in Nepal's civil war, Amnesty International says.
Nepalese children made homeless by the war
The London-based human rights group reports that at least 400 children have died in conflict-related violence since Maoists took up arms in 1996.
Fear and poor information mean the true number is likely to be far higher, its report says. Both troops and Maoists are accused of arbitrary executions.
About 12,000 people have died in Nepal during the decade-long civil war.
In its report, Children Caught in the Conflict, Amnesty says Nepal's children have been caught up in a cycle of violence between the two sides.
"This conflict is a disaster for the children of Nepal," said Amnesty's Asia-Pacific programme director Purna Sen.
"Some children have been directly targeted, while hundreds more have died from explosive devices.
"Thousands of children have been forced to flee their homes."
The report says extra-judicial executions of children by the security forces have been "a constant feature" of the war, and have risen sharply in the past year.
It also alleges that the Maoists have killed babies and abducted children and forced them to fight.
The human rights group details several cases in its report:
- In September 2004, three unarmed girls - said to be members of a Maoist cultural group - were allegedly followed by security forces after they left school and shot dead.
- In February 2004 a 17-year-old girl was allegedly interrogated and then shot dead by security forces.
- In June 2005 two women and a one-year-old child were abducted by Maoists. Their mutilated bodies were later found in a forest.
- A 13-year-old boy told Amnesty of how he had been abducted by Maoists and made to serve as a child soldier for three months.
- In 2004, a 16-year-old girl from western Nepal was allegedly raped at gunpoint by two policemen until she lost consciousness.
Amnesty also accuses both sides of misusing schools as barracks.
Teachers are said to have been threatened, tortured and killed by both sides.
The army has been unable to beat the rebels
Violence has sharply escalated in Nepal since the country's monarch, King Gyanendra, dismissed the government and seized direct power in February.
The king dismissed the parliament accusing politicians of failing to tackle the Maoists but has been unable to check the violence.
International observers have warned that the situation could deteriorate further. In June, Amnesty urged the world to suspend arms sales to Nepal.