Child bombers in Boko Haram increase 10-fold, 75% of kids are girls
Kano: Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram is increasingly using children in suicide attacks. According to UNICEF, the Islamic extremists used four children in such attacks in 2014 and 44 in 2015.
Nearly 1 of every 5 suicide attacks conducted by the terror group used a child, it said, adding 75% of the children used are girls and that these children are victims, not perpetrators.
"As suicide attacks involving children become commonplace, some communities are starting to see children as threats. This suspicion toward children can have destructive consequences: How can a community rebuild itself when it is casting out its own sisters, daughters and mothers?" Manuel Fontaine, West Africa director of the UN children's agency, said.
"These children are victims, not perpetrators," Manuel Fontaine added.
The UNICEF also noted that in some cases, children might not even know they are carrying a remotely detonated bomb.
Recently, a woman, believed to be in her 20s, was freed by soldiers in an attack on a Boko Haram-held village. After she was reunited with her family in Maiduguri last month, she told her mother that she had been trained as a suicide bomber. The mother so feared her own daughter that she turned her in to the military.
The number of children involved in suicide attacks in Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon and Chad rose 10-fold last year, with the frequency of all suicide bombings increasing from 32 in 2014 to 151 last year. In 2015, 89 of these attacks were carried out in Nigeria, 39 in Cameroon, 16 in Chad and 7 in Niger, the report said.
Boko Haram has sent bombers to mosques, market places and other soft targets since a multi-national military offensive forced them out of a large swath of the country that they held until a year ago.
Boko Haram wants to create an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer whose 170 million people are divided almost equally between Christians mainly in the south and Muslims in the north.
Nigeria's home-grown insurgency has killed 20,000 people in six years and forced 2.8 million from their homes.
With AP Inputs