A new report reveals that the kidnapping of 270 Chibok girls in 2014 and the 400 women and children taken from Damasak in Nigeria last year are not isolated cases.
It shows Boko Haram’s strategy aimed at using women – some as young as 10 – as suicide bombers in its ‘asymmetrical warfare’ against Nigerian army.
Women have strapped explosives to their bodies in other conflicts – from Chechnya to Iraq, from Pakistan to Palestine, from Syria to Sri Lanka – but never at such a rate as in the Boko Haram insurgency, notes the report, published by the Integrated Regional Information Networks, a news agency focusing on humanitarian stories.
It says more than 200 women have blown themselves up since June 2014, killing more than 1,000 people in Nigeria, and increasingly in neighboring Cameroon.
Whereas women seemed to have been initially used because they could more easily slip into markets and public places without arousing suspicion, that is no longer the case, notes the report. It points out that recently the Nigerian army warned that female bombers are now disguising themselves as men to evade security.
The use of suicide bombers is often seen as a tactic of last resort, a switch to “asymmetrical warfare” after defeat on the conventional battlefield. But abducting women is a long-standing Boko Haram strategy. Our Bodies, Their Battleground, going back to1999, highlights the way Boko Haram has deliberately targeted them on the basis of their religion and gender.
But now, points out IRIN, there seems to be little distinction: women and girls are abducted regardless of religion. Raped under the pretext of sham marriages, their abuse is used to build cohesion among the Boko Haram fighters and spread fear in the community.