The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported an increase of suicide attacks in Nigeria, particularly those executed by young women and girls.
“Children are not instigating these suicide attacks; they are used intentionally by adults in the most horrific way,” explained Jean Gough, the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “They are first and foremost victims – not perpetrators.”
Only 26 suicide attacks occurred in 2014, but the number is up to 27 for 2015 so far. UNICEF found that women and children participated in “at least three-quarters” of those attacks.
“Many children have been separated from their families when they fled the violence, with no one to look after them,” continued Gough. “Without the protection of their families, these children are at greater risk of exploitation by adults, and this can lead to involvement in criminal or armed group activities.”
UNICEF officials believe that if terrorist groups like Boko Haram continue to use children, then the public will view children “as potential threats.” This could cause more problems for children and families as they make their way back home while Boko Haram continues to lose ground. Jacon Zenn, an Africa analyst at the Jamestown Foundation, told The Wall Street Journal “female suicide bombers has led to Nigerian soldiers lashing out at women in Islamic garb, playing into Boko Haram’s argument that the country’s secular army is fighting Islam.”
In December 2014, Nigerian police apprehended aspiring female suicide bombers who told authorities there were still over 50 female suicide bombers scattered across Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Female suicide bombers terrorized Kano, which is 368 miles east of Maiduguri, for a week in late July.
One female suicide bomber killed three people at the Kano State Polytechnic School. On the same day, officials arrested a 10-year-old girl after discovering that she was wearing a belt carrying explosives. Other bombers killed people at a gas station, supermarket, and a temporary university site. The bomber in the latter case was only 15 years old.
On November 25, two suicide bombers, one female, killed over 50 people at a market in Maiduguri in the late morning. The woman detonated her bombs first and her male companion blew up when rescue personal arrived. Just two days later, two female suicide bombers killed 78 people in a similar fashion at a popular market in Maiduguri. One woman exploded inside the market, but the other waited until rescuers arrived — rescuers scrambling to help the bleeding victims of the first explosion.