Boko Haram, the Islamic State’s affiliate in west Africa, is expected to quadruple its female suicide bomber attacks in 2017 should current trends continue.
At least 27 women have engaged in suicide attacks in west Africa in 2017, compared to 29 in all of 2016, according to a report by the Long War Journal. The increase not only shows a disturbing increase in the use of the tactic, but also a potential resurgence of Boko Haram, also known as the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA). The group does not claim all such attacks, but it is well-known for using women and girls as suicide bombers.
Most of the attacks occurred in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, according to statistics compiled by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), all countries in which Boko Haram is active. Additionally, nearly all of the attacks (80 percent) were committed by children.
“The insurgency has changed its tactics over the course of the conflict, from holding towns and territory to a guerrilla-style insurgency that uses hit and run attacks and improvised explosive devices,” said UNICEF’s report.
Boko Haram reached its peak in 2014, after seizing swaths of territory in northwest Nigeria. It pledged allegiance to ISIS in March 2015. Nigeria, in conjunction with its neighbors Chad and Cameroon, have pushed back against the group. Boko Haram appears to have adapted its procedure accordingly.
“As militaries have stepped up their attacks on Boko Haram strongholds, there has been a marked increase in ‘suicide’ attacks in the region,” said UNICEF.
One such attack earlier this month nearly massacred an entire wedding. A local dog stopped the female attacker before she could detonate her payload near the wedding party.
An attack in February involving two female suicide bombers killed 65 at a displaced persons camp. A pair of attacks on January 29 and 30 left approximately 96 dead.
One of the girls used in Boko Haram’s previous attacks was reportedly only seven years old.
Information on the girls used in the suicide attacks is sparse, however, there are indications that many are coerced by ISWA members. A 13-year-old would-be suicide bomber arrested in 2014 told Nigerian authorities that her father, a keen supporter of the group, forced her to engage in the suicide attack.
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