KANO, Nigeria — In Kano, Nigeria, several attacks rocked the city at the close of Ramadan.
In two of the attacks, women and girls were suicide bombers. At a university in Kano, a bomb attached to a young woman exploded. In another occurrence, Nigerian police arrested a 10-year-old girl with a bomb strapped to her chest.
The attacks are remarkably similar to those of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, so much of the blame is being placed on the terrorist group. These attacks potentially reveal a new tactic: women as suicide bombers. The bombing at the college in Kano is just one of four suicide bombings by a woman in only one week.
Boko Haram was created in 2002 and adamantly opposes education, democracy and financial systems. The goal of the group is to create an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria. Boko Haram received global attention in April when the group kidnapped over 200 girls in order to protest their education. The kidnapping inspired a widespread social media campaign, Bring Back Our Girls, and protests in Nigeria to raise awareness of the abduction. Many of the girls remain in Boko Haram’s custody.
The president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonothan, labeled the use of women and girls in the attacks as, “a new low in the inhuman campaign.” The Daily Post Nigeria reports that, according to Police Public Relations Officer Frank Mba, Boko Haram is potentially using women and girls in order to remain unsuspicious.
Moreover, the insurgents have begun recruiting people as young as age 10 to counteract the rising awareness among citizens of the violent strategies employed by Boko Haram.
Secretary of State John Kerry links Boko Haram recruitment to poverty in Nigeria. In order to recruit young Nigerians, the group offers them money, which provides significant motivation for some of the impoverished population. Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for African affairs in 2012, noted, “It is important to note that religion is not the primary driver behind extremist violence in Nigeria…Boko Haram thrives because of social and economic problems in the north.”
In response to the suicide bombings in Nigeria, the government is enacting a counterterrorism strategy. More bomb experts and soldiers will be employed, and female security will be stationed to carry out searches.
Aside from the potential use of female attackers, Boko Haram has engaged in new tactics such as targeting political leaders and attacking more frequently. Since its creation in 2002, the Boko Haram has become steadily more violent and more frequent in its attacks. This year, Boko Haram has killed over 100 people. In the course of its existence, the group has killed thousands.
Now, the attacks are taking a more political and public form. In the last several months, the groups has targeted several locations in Nigeria and recently staged attacks on political leadership in Cameroon. Before the bombing at the college in Kano, Boko Haram kidnapped the wife of Amadou Ali, the vice prime minister of Cameroon. Targeting major leaders in either Nigeria or Cameroon appears to be a new feature of the Boko Haram terrorism.
Only a week before, the group attempted to assassinate Muhammadu Buhari, a leader of the political opposition in Nigeria.
The new strategies employed by Boko Haram in the suicide bombings in Nigeria and the attempted and completed attacks in Nigeria and Cameroon evidence adjustments to greater international attention and an increase in the confidence of the terrorist group. Thus, while global attention to the terrorist group has increased, poverty and evolution of strategy allows the group to continue with greater strength and frequency.
– Tara Wilson
Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC, Bring Back Our Girls, The Guardian, LA Times, Daily Post Nigeria, CNS News Associated Press