Newspaper article International New York Times

Use of Girls in Bombings Raises Worry in Nigeria ; Suicide Attack Directed by Boko Haram Part of Wider, Vexing Campaign

Newspaper article International New York Times

Use of Girls in Bombings Raises Worry in Nigeria ; Suicide Attack Directed by Boko Haram Part of Wider, Vexing Campaign

Article excerpt

Three girls sent by Boko Haram this week to attack a camp for those seeking to escape violence revealed a weakness in defenses against the militants.

Of all the mysteries surrounding Boko Haram, the marauding militant jihadist group that has terrorized Nigeria and its neighbors, the use of women and girls as suicide bombers is among the most vexing.

That was demonstrated this week when Boko Haram sent three girls to a government-run camp in northern Nigeria that was supposed to be a haven for people who had been chased from their homes under threat or attack by the group.

Those three at the camp in Dikwa are among an increasing deployment of women and girls who have served as suicide bombers in recent Boko Haram attacks.

The United Nations estimates that since June 2014, Boko Haram has deployed 100 abducted women and girls for attacks once carried out by men. The group has also used boys as young as 8 for suicide missions.

In Dikwa, the girls posed as refugees from the violence, spending Monday night at the camp. At dawn on Tuesday, two blew themselves up, killing 58 people and wounding 78. The third girl did not detonate her device. The authorities said she had recognized her parents and siblings among those seeking shelter at the camp and had surrendered.

The authorities said the third girl had also told them that Boko Haram was planning further attacks on the camp, a rapidly growing space that in September housed 7,500 people but had reached a peak of 80,000 by the end of January.

As of Thursday, the girl's precise motives were unclear.

Many experts on Boko Haram say the women and girls who are deployed have been brainwashed or are simply unaware that the devices they are carrying can kill them.

Leila Zerrougui, the United Nations special representative on children and armed conflict, said in early 2015 that the Nigerian authorities at the time had told her that explosives worn by bombers were often remotely detonated. …

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