Boko Haram Battles Nigerian Troops, Uses 10-Year-Old Girl as Suicide Bomber

Boko Haram bombing aftermath
AP Photo

The Islamic State created by ISIS in Syria and Iraq isn’t the only “caliphate” afflicting the world these days. Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria also claim to have created a caliphate, and followed a week in which they killed estimated thousands with the bombing of a marketplace using a ten-year-old girl as a suicide bomber.

Boko Haram capped off a week of incredible bloodshed by employing a ten-year-old girl as a suicide bomber to kill over a dozen people, as reported by NBC News:

A bomb strapped to a girl aged around 10 years old exploded in a busy marketplace in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Saturday, killing at least 16 people and injuring more than 20, security sources said. “The explosive devices were wrapped around her body and the girl looked no more than 10 years old,” a police source said.

Maiduguri, the capital of northern Borno state, lies in the heartland of an insurgency by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, and is often hit by bomb attacks. A Nigerian security source said the bomb went off at 12:15 p.m. The girl was killed and the bodies of at least 16 victims were counted in one hospital by mid-afternoon, civilian joint task force member Zakariya Mohammed told Reuters. “Right now, there are 27 injured people in Borno Medical Hospital, while more were taken to other hospitals,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Boko Haram has sought to use young children as weapons. “A 13-year-old girl refused to detonate a bomb in another incident on Dec. 10 after two others set off explosives in a textile market,” reports Bloomberg News.  “The girl later said her father had recruited her to fight for Boko Haram.”

An October report from the UK Telegraphbased on testimony from girls abducted by the terrorist group who managed to escape said that “forced labor, forced marriage, and forced participation in military operations are widespread” at their camps, as is the sexual abuse of minors, and forced conversion to Islam for Christian prisoners.

In addition to the market bombing, Boko Haram is believed responsible for a bomb that killed two people at a police station in Yobe state, while the state capital of Damaturu came under attack by what the Nigerian government described as “massive attacks from different angles.” Nigerian forces are said to have won the battle but suffered a number of casualties, per Bloomberg News, which reports that a battle for control of Damaturu killed over 100 people last month, as part of a steadily escalating conflict:

More than 100 people were killed in a battle in the city last month. Nigerian forces also began bombing Baga, in Borno state, which was attacked twice in the past week by Islamist rebels, Mike Omeri, a government spokesman, said by phone.

On Jan. 3, Boko Haram captured the headquarters of a multinational military force in northeast Baga that was set up to combat the insurgency. This week, it attacked the town a second time, with the total of people killed being reported as high as 2,000, according to London-based Amnesty International, which said yesterday it is investigating the casualties.

“Security forces were given directives to launch a serious attack on Baga to recapture all the towns seized by Boko Haram, and the Nigeria air force has moved to the area,” Omeri said by phone from the capital, Abuja. “The government is doing everything to deal with the situation.”

The BBC quotes an unnamed resident of Baga claiming that the Nigerian military ran away from the scene, much as Iraqi forces were routed by the early incursions of ISIS:

“Yesterday at around 05:00 [04:00 GMT] we were woken up by heavy gunshots, and we couldn’t identify where the shots were coming from.

“They came through the north, the west and from the southern part of the town because the eastern part is only water. So, when we [went] towards the western part, we saw heavily armed Boko Haram men coming towards us.

“The soldiers were trying to repel the attack but that wasn’t going to happen because a lot of the soldiers were without their guns and some were running into the town. When you see soldiers running away into the town – what are you to do, other than to just run away as well?”

Maina Maaji Lawan, senator for Borno North, told BBC World Service civilians had run “helter skelter” – “some into the forest, some into the desert”.

Communications with the town were cut off and exact information about casualty numbers could not be confirmed, he said.

“We are very dispirited,” the senator added.

Confirming that the military had abandoned the base, he said people’s frustration knew “no bounds” over the apparent fact that the military had not fought back.

“There is definitely something wrong that makes our military abandon their posts each time there is an attack from Boko Haram,” the senator said.

Another eyewitness told News24 that Boko Haram gunmen pursued fleeing civilians and slaughtered them: “For five kilometers, I kept stepping on dead bodies until i reached Malam Karanti village, which was also deserted and burnt.” Another BBC report speaks of 10,000 refugees fleeing into Chad to escape Boko Haram’s rampage, a large number of them drowning in the attempt to swim across Lake Chad.

An analysis in the Washington Post discusses Boko Haram’s territorial ambitions, consciously modeled after the success of ISIS – as of last summer, the Nigerian group’s aspirations “became as much about territory as terrorism.  It no longer wants to just cripple a government.  It wants to become one.” And it’s not going to stop at the Nigerian border:

Is there any stopping it? For the time being, it appears not. The administration of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his military, beset by corruption and ill-equipped, have been unable to match both Boko Haram’s firepower, discipline and fundraising. And now, with Boko Haram’s campaign to control northeast Nigeria complete, analysts said its territorial ambitions have outgrown Nigeria’s porous borders.

Cameroon dispatched troops to its northern border to meet the assault, but its military has been taxed by ceaseless Boko Haram attacks, reported Stratfor Global Intelligence. On Dec. 28, fighters spilled across a dry river bed into Cameroon. “This may have been an attempt by Boko Haram to establish control over a significant portion of Cameroon’s far north region, where the group has long been active and recruited fighters,” the think tank said. Boko Haram seized one town and simultaneously attacked five more.

The kidnapping and slavery that first put Boko Haram on Western media’s radar screen also continues. A raid in mid-December is said to have captured 185 women and children, after slaughtering the volunteer militia that had been holding Boko Haram at bay in the absence of support from the Nigerian military.