New report reveals huge two-year rise in minors carrying out suicide attacks in Lake Chad region
By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria – UNICEF said on Tuesday that the number of children used as suicide bombers across the Lake Chad region has risen 10-fold since 2014, adding that 75 percent of these minors had been girls.
In a report titled ‘Beyond Chibok’, the agency said the number of child suicide bombers rose from four in 2014 to 44 in 2015.
The report comes two days before the second anniversary of the kidnap of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok town of Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State. The abductions were orchestrated by the Boko Haram terror group.
“Between January 2014 and February 2016, Cameroon recorded the highest number of suicide attacks involving children (21), followed by Nigeria (17) and Chad (2),” according to the report.
Over the past two years, nearly one-in-five suicide bombers was a child and three quarters of these children were girls, it added.
Last year, the report said, children were used in one out of two attacks in Cameroon, one out of eight in Chad and one out of seven in Nigeria.
“Let us be clear: these children are victims, not perpetrators,” the report quoted Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, as saying.
“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 neighboring countries,” he added.
Fontaine observed that the rise in the use of children for suicide bombings has resulted in communities treating minors as security threats.
“This suspicion towards children can have destructive consequences; how can a community rebuild itself when it is casting out its own sisters, daughters and mothers?” he queried.
Assessing the impact of the crisis, the report notes that nearly 1.3 million children have been displaced, with about 1,800 schools closed – either damaged, looted, burned down or used as shelters by displaced people.
Over 5,000 children were reported unaccompanied or separated from their parents, it added.
According to the report, suicide bombing attacks spread beyond Nigeria to its neighbors for the first time last year.
The frequency of all suicide bombings increased 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 seven in Niger, the report stated.