LONDON Children as young as eight have been sexually assaulted during the conflict between rebels trying to oust the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and forces loyal to him, a British charity said on Saturday.
Save The Children said it had spoken to nearly 300 children in six temporary camps in rebel-held Benghazi and heard reports of rapes and murders committed within the last four weeks in Ras Lanuf, Ajdabiyah and Misrata.
Michael Mahrt, who carried out the assessment, said the families and children spoke of "soldiers" committing the assaults, but the charity could not say which side they came from.
In one case mothers who had fled the fighting told the charity that a group of four or five teenage girls in Ajdabiyah had been abducted, held hostage for four days and raped.
In another case in Ajdabiyah an eight-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in front of her 10-year-old sister and other siblings, the charity said.
Mahrt said the reports of sexual violence against children were unconfirmed but consistent.
"The stories are similar that we get across these camps. I am completely confident that this happened," he told Reuters.
Adults were not spared the violence, the charity said. Some children said they had witnessed their fathers being murdered and mothers raped before they were themselves beaten.
(Reporting by Tim Castle)