A would-be teenage suicide bomber has said Boko Haram militants paid her just 200 naira ($0.64) to blow herself up in a city in northeast Nigeria.
In footage obtained by Sky News, the 14-year-old girl said the militants had told her and a friend to detonate their explosive vests in a “crowded place” in Maiduguri, the northeastern city that has been at the epicenter of Boko Haram’s eight-year insurgency.
The girl added that she and her friend had worn the vests for three days before going into the city center. The girl removed her vest after being ordered to by police, but officers shot her friend dead after she refused to do the same.
Police disrupt a #BringBackOurGirls rally, in the Nigerian capital Abuja, on January 8. Boko Haram has regularly used young girls as suicide bombers in its insurgency. Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters
A 2016 UNICEF report found that a fifth of the suicide bombers deployed by Boko Haram were children, and that girls made up 75 percent of the child bombers.
Boko Haram began launching attacks against Nigerian government and civilian targets in 2009, with the aim of establishing a militant Islamist caliphate in northeast Nigeria. The group, which has since split into two factions, has perpetrated widespread violence in Nigeria and neighboring countries, killing thousands and displacing millions. The United Nations has warned that northern Nigeria is at risk of famine, largely due to the impact of the insurgency.
The commander of Nigeria’s counter-insurgency operations, Major General Lucky Irabor, told Sky News that young people like the would-be bomber “are very unfortunate children, little girls, who have been involved, who have been engaged to be the couriers of these dastardly acts of the Boko Haram terrorists.”
A Nigerian military offensive, coupled with that of a regional joint task force, has pinned Boko Haram back and reclaimed much of the territory it once controlled in Nigeria, which was comparable to the size of Belgium at the group’s violent peak in early 2015.
But Boko Haram militants continue to carry out guerrilla-style suicide attacks, and the group is still holding the vast majority of the Chibok girls in captivity. Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their school in northeast Nigeria, 2014, sparking the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign. But despite the international attention, 195 of the girls remain in captivity.Try Newsweek: Subscription offers