The Nigerian Girls Who’ve Become Boko Haram’s Best Killers

Aisha, nine years old, and her elder sister, Falmata, 13, were both abducted from their home in Damasak, in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state, during a raid by Boko Haram militants in March. Their much older brother, Bukkar, isn’t sure they’ll ever return. He believes they might have been drafted into the insurgents’ growing army of female suicide bombers. Indeed, he has every reason to think so.
When militants invaded Damasak, they burned down houses and demanded children be handed over to them. Parents who objected were killed, and eventually hundreds of children—girls in particular—were taken by force.
“They set our house on fire and walked through 
the streets kidnapping children who were under 15 years of age and killing those who were above that age,” Bukkar remembers. “They were most interested in little girls, whom they plan to use as suicide bombers.”
Boko Haram has become notorious for using young female suicide bombers. The majority of those recognized have been adolescent girls, with some as young as 10. Other young women are forced to become soldiers and sex slaves.
“Militants feel it is easier to intimidate and brainwash young girls than adult women. Besides, these girls come cheap, and most of them are extremely loyal,” says Yusuf Mohammed, who works with young people affected by trauma in Maiduguri, the birth place of Boko Haram.
The use of these young women began not long after more than 200 young women were kidnapped from their school in Chibok last year, an incident that provoked global outrage and the #BringBackOurGirls campaign that, so far, has proved fruitless.Indoctrinated female bombers are persuaded to seek martyrdom for fighting God’s cause.
“They repeatedly told us that the best jihad is the one in which your horse is slain and your blood is spilled,” said Rukaya, 13, who was rescued by Niger’s armed forces from a Boko Haram camp in Bosso, in southeastern Niger along the border with Nigeria, then taken to a camp for displaced persons in Diffa, deeper in Niger’s territory. (She spoke to The Daily Beast via her older brother.)
In the past, Boko Haram gave financial incentives to its bombers. In its first-ever suicide attack—a 2011 bombing at the police headquarters in the national capital of Abuja—Boko Haram was reported to have offered the male suicide bomber the equivalent of $24,870 dollars for the operation, which he bequeathed to his four children.
It is doubtful that the rising number of female bombers or their families received any such largesse.
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