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Forced Suicide of Girls and Women: Over 100 Female Suicide Bombers Used in West Africa Since June 2014 - One As Young as 9-Years-Old

Aftermath of a bombing by a female suicide bomber. The bomb was detonated on June 23, 2015 at a bus station near a fish market, in Maiduguri, Nigeria.  At least 20 people died in the explosion. (Screen capture from YouTube video)
Aftermath of a bombing by a female suicide bomber. The bomb was detonated on June 23, 2015 at a bus station near a fish market, in Maiduguri, Nigeria.  At least 20 people died in the explosion. (Screen capture from YouTube video)


By Caleb Weiss
The Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), which is formerly known as Boko Haram, has exploited more than 100 women and girls as suicide bombers since June 2014, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. The majority of these suicide bombings have occurred in Nigeria, however, the violence has spread to other countries.


In its most recent assault, ISWA attempted to target a internally displaced persons (IDP) camp with three females near the northeast Nigeria town of Maiduguri, killing at least 69 people on Jan. 31. On Dec. 28, a mosque in the city was also targeted by a female bomber, which left at least 20 people dead. That bombing came a day after ISWA began a massive assault on the city, including two females used as part of the coordinated assault in various neighborhoods. As this was occurring two other female suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowded market in the town of Madagali. According to the BBC, at least 30 people have been killed in those explosions. [See LWJ report, Islamic State West Africa launches coordinated assaults in northeast Nigeria.]

Just a few days before the Jan. 31 attack, the jihadist group killed 9 when five women detonated themselves in the town of Chibok. Chibok came into international attention in 2014 when ISWA kidnapped over 300 schoolgirls from the town, of which, many are still missing.

Two days before the attack in Chibok, four ISWA female suicide bombers killed at least 35 people in a market in Cameroon’s Far North Region. The assault led the Cameroonian government to close down the region’s markets in an effort to cut down on allowing ISWA to target civilians. However, it is unclear how effective this measure will be as ISWA is known to also target mosques, churches, bus stops, and various other places that civilians gather.

Despite a coordinated military offensive by Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon – which has targeted ISWA strongholds in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region – the jihadist group has maintained the ability to launch coordinated attacks and assaults throughout the region. Many of these include the use of women and/or girls as suicide bombers.

According to data compiled by The Long War Journal, ISWA has utilized at least 101 women and girls as suicide bombers in Nigeria, Cameroon, and in Chad since June 2014.

The majority of the suicide attacks involving women have occurred in Nigeria. At least 11 have occurred in neighboring Cameroon, though, and three or more took place in southern Chad in the Lake Chad region.

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