- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says 46 parties to conflict are “credibly suspected” of committing rape or other forms of sexual violence in 2016 including seven designated as “terrorist groups” for links with the Islamic State extremist group and al-Qaida.

The list was included in a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Thursday. It includes mainly opposition and rebel groups from nine countries but also government military and police forces in Congo, Somalia and South Sudan and armed forces in Sudan and Syria. Also on the list is Boko Haram, which operates in Nigeria and neighboring countries.

The report says sexual violence as a war tactic was widespread in 2016 with rapes allegedly committed by several parties to conflict, mostly in conjunction with other crimes from killings to looting and forced displacement.

The U.N. chief said “the strategic nature of the violence was evident in the selective targeting of victims from opposing ethnic, religious or political groups, mirroring the fault lines of the wider conflict or crisis.”

He said patterns of sexual violence have also been seen in urban warfare during house searches, operations in residential areas and at checkpoints.

For example, the report names 13 rebel groups in Congo as well as the army and national police.

In 2016, it said the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo verified 514 cases of conflict-related sexual violence against 340 women, 170 girls, three men and one boy.

During the same period, it said the U.N. population agency reported 2,593 cases of sexual violence in conflict-affected provinces.

In South Sudan, which has been engulfed in conflict since December 2013, the report said the U.N. peacekeeping mission documented 577 incidents of sexual violence including rape, gang rape and sexual slavery.

“The survivors included 57 girls, several of whom were below 10 years of age, with two being less than one year old,” it said.

The report said the overall trends “point to an alarming increase in the number of rapes, with 20 percent more victims seeking services following sexual assault.”

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic recorded 179 cases in 2016, mainly by groups fighting for power and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the report said.

The incidents included 151 rapes, of which 54 were gang rapes, as well as six forced marriages and four cases of sexual slavery, the report said.

“The victims included 92 women, 86 girls and one boy although the actual number is suspected to be far higher than the figures reported,” it said. “Victims of conflict-related sexual violence were generally assaulted in their homes, en route to markets or fields, and in and around displacement camps.”

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