Unveiling Nigeria's rising army of killer women

The number of female suicide bombers in the country has risen sharply in recent times and the casualties have been enormous.

13-year-old suspected suicide bomber, Zaharau was arrested after the December 10, 2014 bombing at the Kantin Kwari textile market in Kano State.

On July 17, 2015, a 10-year-old girl blew herself up in Nigeria’s North-eastern region; she wasn’t the first and is unlikely to be the last.

Nigeria’s first female suicide attack occurred on June 8, 2014 when a middle-aged woman arrived on a motorcycle at a military barracks in Gombe, and detonated an explosive killing herself and a policeman.

Who are these women and why are they dying to kill?

The killer women and girls are believed to be messengers of terrorist sect, Boko Haram, a group which has unleashed unimaginable mayhem in Nigeria in the last five years.

Many of the female attackers cover themselves, and their explosive devices, with hijabs, veils which are won by Muslim women for modesty, to avoid being detected.

The use of women for bombings is almost fool-proof as they are generally perceived to be less dangerous than men and as such are less likely to be subjected to vigorous inspections.

“…To use female suicide bombers is the most dramatic strategy that an organisation can use. It becomes easier to penetrate targets because we are less suspicious about women,”Martin Ewi, a researcher with South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies, (ISS), told the BBC.

Boko Haram has also taken to using very young girls to carry out the attacks making the likelihood of suspicion very low and the potential for destruction very high.

The development has given rise to fears that the sect is using some of its kidnap victims as unwilling weapons.

These concerns were further strengthened when, on June 22, a teenage suicide bomber ran away from a crowd andkilled only herself in an explosion in Maiduguri, Borno State.

Some of the girls are also being handed to the terrorists by their families according to 13-year-old would-be bomber, Zaharau Babangida.

Zaharau was arrested in December 2014 in connection with a bombing at the Kantin Kwari Textile Market in Kano State.

“My father said I should first go to heaven and he would join me later. I was so disturbed and decided to do what they asked me to do. It even went to the extent that they told us that if we refused to take part in that operation they would kill us or they would bury us alive,” she said.

Female Wing

In July 2014, Nigerian military spokesperson, Onyema Nwachukwu said that Boko Haram had created a "female wing" which served two other purposes - to spy for the group and to recruit potential wives for the men on the front line.

The Nigerian government acknowledged that the terrorist-women had become a force to reckon with when it revealed in July 2015 that it was rehabilitating former female bombers as an alternative to the all-out war on Boko Haram.

Experts say the use of women by Boko Haram might mean that the insurgency has entered a more ruthless phase.

“It tends to be the last card that an organization plays. But we don't know whether Boko Haram has reached that stage, or whether it has decided to play the card early,” Ewi said.

Whatever be the case, the rise of this army of killer women is an alarming and disturbing trend.

It is indeed frightening to see that those who are the “givers of life” and the “keepers of home and family” have now also become mass murderers.

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