Boko Haram is increasingly using child suicide bombers. Horrifyingly, the children appear to be volunteering to die instead of facing a far worse fate.
Boko Haram, the terrorist group active in West Africa, has been increasingly using young children as suicide bombers. Children as young as 8 have been used to detonate bombs in schools and other crowded public places like markets, indicated a leading charity that deals with kidnapped and at-risk children.
A report released by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reiterated the findings, adding further that suicide bombings conducted by Boko Haram, involving children, has surged almost 11-fold.
“The number of children involved in ‘suicide’ attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger has risen sharply over the past year, from four in 2014 to 44 in 2015.”
If all the bombing incidents are considered, more than one in every five suicide bombers used by the terror sect is a child, shared Laurent Duvillier, the regional spokesman for UNICEF.
“The use of children, especially girls, as so-called suicide bombers has become a defining and alarming feature of this conflict. It’s basically turning the children against their own communities by strapping bombs around their bodies.”
Boko Haram typically conducts mass-kidnappings after raiding villages. Thereafter, the explosives are either strapped on the children or hidden inside baskets. The children are then sent into crowded public places like schools, markets, or even places of worship, reported Al Jazeera. The explosives are remotely detonated by the Boko Haram operatives who hide at a distance and use a remote control to trigger the bombs. It is believed quite a few of the children aren’t aware they are acting as suicide bombers primarily because these innocent kids do not detonate the bombs themselves, noted Duvillier.
The terror tactic has worked exceptionally well because children are the last to be suspected. These young kids can often penetrate deep into a crowded place with ease, as no one finds children’s behavior or their activities suspicious, shared Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF regional director for west and central Africa.
“Let us be clear: these children are victims, not perpetrators. Deceiving children and forcing them to carry out deadly acts has been one of the most horrific aspects of the violence in Nigeria and in neighboring countries.”
Once the children are surrounded by a large crowd, Boko Haram remotely detonates the bomb, causing maximum possible casualties.
It is horrifying to note that young girls who are snatched from their villages are volunteering to act as suicide bombers, reported the Mirror. These girls are willingly strapping on bombs to escape not just the agonizing hunger they face in the cramped hostage camps, but the persistent sexual harassment and abuse at the hands Boko Haram militants. For thousands of innocent girls who are kidnapped along with many other people during mass-abductions, the death by a bomb strapped to their bodies or hidden in a basket on their heads is a far better option than the daily barrage of abuses.
According to BBC News, three-quarters of all suicide bombers are girls. The situation is so bleak and horrendous that the girls often compete with one another to be chosen as the next suicide bomber, shared Fati, a 16-year-old girl who managed to escape from the clutches of Boko Haram, reported CNN. She was one of the many girls held by Boko Haram. She narrated a sordid tale of daily abuses and gang-rapes by the militants, at the end of which the majority of them were eager to act as suicide bombers.
“They came to us to pick us. They would ask, ‘Who wants to be a suicide bomber? The girls would shout, ‘me, me, me.’ They were fighting to do the suicide bombings. Volunteering for these missions was often the only hope these young girls had of getting away.”
Persistent offensives launched by regional governments has either weakened Boko Haram or driven it to desperation. The terror sect recently indicated it wanted to trade the 219 schoolgirls it had kidnapped almost two years ago. But given the routine usage of child suicide bombers, experts have questioned if the girls are even alive.
[Photo by Pius Utomi Ekpei/Getty Images]