#CARCrisis: UNICEF Says Teens Were Targeted in Central African Republic

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By Cassandra Vinograd

Teens have been directly targeted — beheaded, shot and burned — in a bloody new wave of violence in the Central African Republic, according to the United Nations.

Three dozen people died and more were wounded after inter-religious clashes re-erupted in the country's capital over the weekend following the discovery of a Muslim man's dead body.

U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Marc Vandenberghe said that clashes were a "step backwards" for the nation, where peacekeepers have been on hand for security following a descent into chaos two years ago.

UNICEF said Monday that children were "deliberately targeted" in the weekend flare up in Bangui — and called for the "appalling crimes" to stop.

A wounded man is carried into a hospital in Bangui on Saturday.EDOUARD DROPSY / AFP - Getty Images

Preliminary reports show a 16-year-old boy was decapitated, another was shot dead and a 17-year-old was shot and then burned, according to the organization.

Other children — including two boys and two girls between the ages of 7 and 17 — were caught in the violence and wounded by gunshots and grenade fragments, UNICEF's head of communications for West and Central Africa said.

"Nothing can justify the brutal killing of children — nothing," Thierry Delvigne-Jean told NBC News. "Children are children, regardless of the situation they find themselves in. "

That includes children who have been forcibly recruited to fight for armed groups in the Central African Republic, he said. The U.N. estimates that up to 10,000 children have been recruited by armed groups in Central African Republic since the conflict erupted.

"It is against international law to target kids but its also against international law to recruit them in armed conflict," Delvigne-Jean said. "They must be protected at all times... They are victims."

Thousands have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the violence in Central African Republic, which erupted in 2013 after mainly-Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country. Seleka abuses sparked reprisals by Christian "anti-balaka" militias.

Reuters contributed.