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Female suicide bombers: Terrorist groups’ hidden weapon

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A woman holding a baby detonated a bomb in northern Nigeria over the weekend, killing both her and her infant, and at least six other people, local authorities said, abruptly ending a rare lull in violence that has plagued the region for more than a decade.

She was joined by two other women. Suicide bomber Multiple explosions in Nigeria’s Borno state have killed at least 32 people and injured dozens, according to Nigeria’s Vice President Kassim Shettima. Experts say the attacks show the complex and deadly role women play in terrorist insurgencies such as Boko Haram.

Barkindo Saidu, director of the Borno state emergency management agency, said the attackers targeted three locations – a wedding celebration, an area near a hospital and a funeral for victims of previous bombings. The attack took place in the city of Gwoza, which has been controlled by Boko Haram for 15 years.

While no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, they are similar to previous suicide bombings by Boko Haram, an Islamist group that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than two million in the region. In 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 people. Female students.

Experts say armed groups often use women as suicide bombers because they view them as less valuable to their organizations but more tactically advantageous.

“Women are less likely to arouse suspicion and are able to infiltrate their targets more deeply,” said Mia Bloom, a professor of communications at Georgia State University and an expert on female suicide bombers. Professor Bloom said terrorist groups often use women when targeting civilians or municipal infrastructure because they “blend in” and are less likely to be seen as a threat.

Professor Bloom, who has interviewed many Boko Haram survivors, said some groups also believe women are more easily manipulated. She said many of the women lured by Boko Haram to become suicide bombers were likely sexually assaulted and traumatized. She said some women may have been radicalized, but others believed “they had a better chance of surviving as bombers than marrying Boko fighters.”

Terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and the Taliban have all used female suicide bombers in the past, but Boko Haram has used female suicide bombers more frequently than other groups.

The group has kidnapped and detained Young girls They tie girls to their bodies and force them to carry out suicide missions. Boko Haram has used girls so frequently in some areas that the Nigerian government has launched a counter-terrorism campaign that features images of children holding detonators.

Research Research by the West Point Combating Terrorism Center found that the group deployed women as bombers in more than half of its operations, including suicide missions, between April 2011 and June 2017. Many of the bombers were girls.

Former Boko Haram leader Abubakar ShekauHe was killed in 2021 and was notorious for sending young girls and women on suicide missions, often against their will.

Abubakar Shekau, former Boko Haram leader, said in a video released in 2018.Credit…AFP — Getty Images

Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow in the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based research organization, called Boko Haram’s use of women a “feature” of its militancy that is unusual among West African groups such as those in Mali and Niger, which do not typically use women in operational roles.

Mr. Hudson said that even though Boko Haram did not claim responsibility for the attack, the women’s participation showed that terrorism in the region affects more than just disaffected young men. “Entire communities are being drawn into this,” he said. “You’re looking at a broad-based, community-wide insurgency.”

The Sahel, a vast semi-arid region across West and Central Africa, has been home to a number of Islamist groups committed to insurgency over the past decade. In addition to Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province is also active in the region.

Nigeria’s Borno state, which borders neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, has long been plagued by terrorist violence, first by Boko Haram militants and then by wars between rival and splinter groups for control of territory.

Boko Haram militants captured Gwoza in 2014, with the group’s then leader Shekau declaring a caliphate, before the Nigerian army expelled the group in 2015.

Civilian governments across the region, including in neighboring Niger, have endured a series of Military coup The situation has improved in recent years, but both civilian and military regimes have struggled to cope with the threat posed by the Islamist insurgency.

Experts say environmental degradation, economic deprivation and extremely weak national power have combined to create a pattern of free movement across borders, including the movement of Islamist militants.

“Even if one country is able to make progress, it’s unlikely to have a broad impact on the region,” Mr. Hudson said. “What we’re seeing now is perhaps the beginning of a recovery.”

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