To keep its deadly insurgency alive, terrorist sect Boko Haram is doubling down on a new extreme: using child suicide bombers.
The group, which has ravaged Nigeria’s northeast since 2009, killing more than 20,000 and leaving millions homeless, has been attacked by Nigeria’s military over the past two years under president Muhammadu Buhari. It has lost control of several former strongholds, suffered internal power struggles and been deemed incapable of carrying out large-scale coordinated attacks.
Those losses appear to have pushed it to ramp up guerrilla style attacks on soft targets using child suicide bombers. With four months left in 2017, the number of children suicide bombers deployed by Boko Haram is already four times higher than it was in all of 2016, according to UNICEF, the United Nations’ child agency. Since the start of the year, Boko Haram has deployed 83 children as human bombs. More than half were girls, most of them younger than 15. In one case, a baby was strapped to a girl, UNICEF says.
The report contradicts claims by Nigeria’s military that Boko Haram has been “defeated.” Boko Haram attacks have killed 200 civilians as of June this year, according to data from SBM, a Lagos-based intelligence firm, largely due to the child suicide bombings.
Sign up for the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief — the most important and interesting news from across the continent, in your inbox.