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UK used former child soldiers in Iraq war: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A file photo of a 14-year-old soldier in Sierra Leone (by AP)

A report says a British military firm hired African mercenaries, including former child soldiers, to take part in US operations in Iraq in order to reduce costs.

The claims against Aegis Defense Services are to be made in a Danish television documentary The Child Soldier's New Job which is due to be broadcast later on Monday.

The documentary claims that Aegis hired some 2,500 mercenaries on as little as 10 pounds a day in order to fulfill contracts to guard US military bases from 2004 onwards.

Former Aegis director James Ellery told The Guardian that contractors recruited from countries with high unemployment rates and cheap labor such as Sierra Leone, not checking if the mercenaries were former child soldiers.

Instead, the company’s concern was whether the recruiters met the physical health requirements “because you don’t want people dying after you’ve put them through expensive training,” he said.

The company was providing guards to safeguard US military bases in Iraq since 2004. It initially hired British, American and Nepalese individuals, but began employing recruits from African nations in 2011.

The company was taken over last year by the Canadian security company GardaWorld.

“When war gets outsourced, then the companies try to find the cheapest soldiers globally. Turns out that that is former child soldiers from Sierra Leone," the documentary's maker Mads Ellesoe said.

"I think it is important that we in the West are aware of the consequences of the privatization of war,” he said.

The documentary shows that private military companies have turned to Sierra Leone along with Uganda and Kenya for cheap labor to protect military installations in Iraq since 2009.

“Every time I hold a weapon, it keeps reminding me of the past. It brings back many memories,” said Gibrilla Kuyateh, a soldier who was interviewed in the movie.

Kuyateh recounted how rebels, who abducted him when he was 13, forced him to amputate people’s limbs, “not always with a sharp instrument."

He said he was struggling to carry an AK-47 while he was being trained to fire it as he was very small.

The US invaded Iraq in March 2003 under the pretext that the regime of slain Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons, however, were ever found in Iraq.

The invasion plunged Iraq into chaos, resulting in years of deadly violence and the rise of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, which was a precursor of Daesh.

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