The number of children used by Nigeria’s Boko Haram to stage suicide bombings has risen more than 10-fold in one of the most “horrific” aspects of the Islamist insurgency, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
Experts said the group, which has been weakened by a multinational military offensive, is now trying to spread terror by using children for attacks in crowded markets, mosques and even camps for people fleeing Boko Haram violence.
This has had disastrous consequences for children, especially girls, who had survived captivity and sexual violence by Boko Haram, said a report by UN children’s agency UNICEF.
“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,” UNICEF said.
More than 75 per cent of the children involved in such attacks are girls, it added.
“Let us be clear: these children are victims, not perpetrators,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF regional director for west and central Africa.
“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 neighbouring countries,” he said.
The report was released two years after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 teenagers in the dead of night from the small town of Chibok in northern Nigeria. A total of 219 students are still missing.