Two female suicide bombers killed over 20 people at a mosque in northeastern Nigeria, just outside of Maiduguri.
The New York Times reported that the first explosion “tore through the mosque,” while “the second occurred near the building a few minutes later” to target those who attempted to escape. One of the women was disguised as a man.
No terrorist group has assumed responsibility for the attack, but authorities suspect the Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram, founded in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
“We were just a few meters away from the mosque when a loud bang erupted and all we could see was dark smoke and bodies littered around,” said witness Umar Usman.
One hospital reported that people have claimed 13 bodies “for the speedy burials required by Muslim tradition.”
Boko Haram has used female suicide bombers in their latest attacks across the region. Last month, two female suicide bombers attacked an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Nigeria, killing over 65 people. A third female bomber refused to carry out the attack since her parents and siblings lived there. The young girl told authorities “that more suicide bombers and insurgents had been assigned to attack the camp.”
The Long War Journal believes Boko Haram has over 101 women and girls in captivity to use as suicide bombers in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad.
“The ages of the bombers have ranged from just nine-years-old to middle-aged,” the authors wrote. “Many of the women and girls used in these bombings are likely forced into committing the attacks, however, some could be the widows or daughters of killed fighters.”
An attack on January 31 killed over 100 people in a small village, including children burned alive. Witnesses said militants stormed into the town and opened fire. Three female suicide bombers surrounded the village and blew themselves up as people attempted to escape.
In August, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari demanded his military destroy Boko Haram in three months. Boko Haram has been terrorizing Nigeria since 2009, killing over 20,000 and spreading into Cameroon, Niger, and Chad. The attacks have displaced over 1.5 million people.
On Christmas Eve, Buhari asserted the military met its deadline and had won the war against Boko Haram, since the terrorist group could allegedly no longer launch massive attacks.
“I think, technically, we have won the war,” he said. “Boko Haram is an organized fighting force, I assure you, [but] we have dealt with them.”
Yet, only a week later, female suicide bombers attacked Maiduguri and killed over 80 people.