Boko Haram’s use of girl suicide bombers intensifies amid terror campaign

Michael Walsh
1 / 2

A screengrab taken on July 13, 2014 from a video released by Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group, Abubakar Shekau (C)

A screengrab taken on July 13, 2014 from a video released by Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group, Abubakar Shekau (C) (AFP Photo/)

Experts say Nigeria’s Boko Haram appears to be increasing its use of a particularly brutal terrorist tactic: forcing abducted girls to blow themselves up in crowded spaces.

Three young female suicide bombers, one thought to be about 10, carried out deadly attacks in crowded marketplaces last weekend.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sin,” ignited international outrage when it kidnapped 273 girls from the Chibok Government Secondary School on April 15, 2014.

“Boko Haram doesn’t see age as a boundary. Age doesn’t carry the same value for Boko Haram. They see children as they would see any other target and regard children as expendable resources in this way,” Elizabeth Donnelly, assistant head of the Africa Program for Chatham House, said in an interview with Yahoo News.

Donnelly said we have known that the group has been abducting young boys and girls and potentially using them for several years. But we have not always had a lot of evidence on how they have been used.

“It’s likely they were deployed as weapons and shields in battles,” she said.

Boko Haram has imprisoned hundreds of children in camps with cultlike practices, but we have little knowledge of the trauma they experience, Donnelly explained.

We also do not know whether the girls know that the terrorists have attached explosive devices to their bodies before sending them into busy areas.

“They would have little to no choice either way,” Donnelly pointed out. “They are likely young, terrified people.”

Adotei Akwei, managing director of government relations for Amnesty International, said the Nigerian government’s inability to protect the lives of people in the country’s northern areas is alarming.

“The Boko Haram insurgency has consistently, since 2005, targeted women and girls and abducted them,” he told Yahoo News. “It’s not a far stretch to imagine them using these girls as child soldiers.”

On Wednesday, Amnesty International released before-and-after satellite images depict the magnitude of the attacks on the towns of Baga and Doron Baga.

Taken on Jan. 2 and Jan. 7, the images show the loss of 3,700 homes and stores that were severely damaged or completely destroyed over the Jan. 3 weekend, which represents a major escalation in the insurgency.

“We believe that hundreds, possibly as many as 2,000, were killed during a four-day period. These are crimes against humanity,” Akwei said.

The images show just two of the many towns and villages that Boko Haram targeted in the recent killing sprees.

Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, said the Islamist insurgents have used female suicide bombers in the past, but the recent attacks mark a “ratcheting up” of their bombing campaign with children, NBC News reported.

“Young women who are abducted, it has been suggested that they might be used as wives. But it’s certainly possible they could be used as bombers,” he told the news site.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, currently the United Nations’ special envoy for global education, released a statement Thursday condemning the terrorist group’s use of girls.

“The whole world must unite to condemn Boko Haram’s new barbaric low with their evil use of young girls as suicide bombers to carry out their murderous attacks,” the statement reads in part.

Similarly, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has accused the terrorist group of a “crime against humanity.”

Last Saturday’s suicide bombing, thought to have been carried out by a 10-year-old in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, killed at least 19, Agence France Presse reported.

The following day, two female suicide bombers, one thought to be about 15, killed four in the northeast Nigerian city of Potiskum.

Please visit bringbackoutgirls.us to learn more about the roughly 230 Chibok girls still missing.