Maoist rebels in India are using children as human shields and ordering them to snatch weapons from police.

According to Bhagwat Bhagel, a sub-inspector who was wounded by rebels in an attack on May 25 which left 30 dead, boys as young as 10 years old in school uniforms took weapons from injured and dead security forces.

He told The Times of India that he saw children, believed to be aged 9 to 10 years old, dressed in school uniforms, approaching the dead body of constables and taking their weapons, such as guns and ammunition. The Maoists would cover for them until the young boys get to safety with their loot.

“I could have shot them but looking at their age, I controlled myself,” Baghel added.

“The boys in school uniform were not armed. They just came, snatched the weapons and escaped,” a special task force officer said on condition of anonymity. “This is a disturbing trend that has come to fore.”

Intelligence officials said Maoist rebels are recruiting more young boys. “Boys found wearing school uniforms at odd times are questioned and kept under surveillance. Still it’s a difficult task to arrest them,” an official said.