Islamic State West Africa (formerly Boko Haram) leader Abubakar Shekau
Five girls have reportedly detonated themselves in the northeastern city of Maiduguri today, killing at least nine people and wounding more than 30 others. Using female suicide bombers is a common tactic of the Islamic State’s West African Province (ISWA), formerly known as Boko Haram.
According to the BBC, the five bombers targeted a mosque and the house of a local vigilante leader in the city. The British news agency quoted local witnesses and officials as saying that some of the girls “were as young as nine.” Additionally, the death toll is expected to rise as Nigerian officials gather more information from the scene. Last week, the city was hit by coordinated improvised explosive device attacks which left at least eight people dead.
Maiduguri has seen several attacks by female suicide bombers this year. On June 24, a pair of women who were thought to be in their twenties killed 30 people in separate attacks at a market and a prayer area in the city. Three days earlier, another woman detonated a device at a bus station in Maiduguri, killing at least 20 people.
The suicide bombings in Maiduguri also come a week after two female suicide bombers detonated themselves in Mora in northern Cameroon. According to Reuters, a police officer and two civilians were killed in that attack. Earlier last month, the jihadist group used two teenage girls to attack a local market and an army camp in Kerewa, killing 30.
The ISWA’s deployment of women as suicide bombers has been a common tactic in Nigeria over the past two years. In one of the deadliest attacks, on Nov. 27, 2014, two women killed 78 people and wounded scores more at a market in Maiduguri. The group’s first known instance of using a female suicide bomber was on June 8, 2014, when a middle-aged woman on a motorcycle detonated near a Nigerian military barracks in Gombe, killing one policeman.
The ISWA has deployed at least 52 female suicide bombers in Nigeria and Cameroon since June 2014, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. The use of women can make it easier for jihadist groups to conduct suicide attacks, as explosives may be easier to hide, and men are less likely to search women due to cultural sensitivities. The ages of the bombers have ranged from just nine years old to middle-aged.
Despite a coordinated military offensive by Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon that has targeted ISWA strongholds in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, the jihadist group has maintained its attack tempo. ISWA has launched two suicide attacks in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, over the past months, and has conducted multiple military assaults in Niger, Cameroon, and Nigeria. In one particularly gruesome attack, ISWA gunmen assaulted two mosques in the town of Kukawa in Borno as worshippers were praying. At least 97 people, many of them children, are reported to have been killed. Around 800 people are suspected to have been killed since Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari came into power in May.
List of Islamic State West Africa/Boko Haram suicide attacks utilizing women since the beginning of June 2014:
Oct 2, 2015 – Five female suicide bombers kill 9 in coordinated attacks on a mosque and a vilgilante leader in Maiduguri.
Sept 20, 2015 – A police officer and two civilians were killed when two female suicide bombers detonated themselves in Mora, Cameroon.
Sept 3, 2015 – Two female suicide bombers killed 30 and wounded over 100 in an attack on a local market in Kerawa, Cameroon, and close to a nearby army camp.
Aug 25, 2015 – A 14 year old girl suicide bomber killed 5 in an attack on a bus station in Damaturu.
July 25, 2015 – A 40 year old woman, described as “mentally unstable,” detonated herself in a crowded market in Damaturu, Nigeria, killing 14.
July 25, 2015 – A 12 year old girl killed 20 people in a suicide bombing on a popular bar in Cameroon.
July 22, 2015 – Two girls killed at least 20 people in separate suicide bombings in Maroua, the capital of Cameroon’s Far Northern Region.
July 17, 2015 – A 10 year old girl and an elderly woman killed 50 people in separate suicide attacks in Damaturu, Nigeria.
July 16, 2015 – A young woman suicide bomber killed at least nine people as they gathered to mark the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr in Damaturu.
July 12, 2015 – Two women suicide bombers killed 10 civilians and a Chadian soldier in an attack in the Cameroon border town of Fotokol.
July 7, 2015 – A woman killed at least 20 people after detonating her vest in a crowd of Nigerian government workers in Zaria.
July 7, 2015 – A female suicide bomber detonated her explosives after she was stopped at a roadblock in Zaria.
July 5, 2015 – A woman suicide bomber killed five people at a Christian church in Potiskum, Nigeria.
July 3, 2015 – A teenage woman suicide bomber killed 12 worshippers when she blew herself up in a mosque in Malari in northeastern Nigeria.
July 3, 2015 – The Nigerian military said that six women suicide bombers killed scores of civilians and one soldiers in separate attacks in the village of Zabamari Muna near Maiduguri.
June 24, 2015 – A girl, who is thought to have been 12-years-old, killed 10 people after detonating her explosive vest at a market in Yobe state, Nigeria.
June 23, 2015 – A teenage girl killed 20 people at a bus station in Maiduguri after detonating herself.
May 16, 2015 – A woman killed 10 people in a suicide attack in Damaturu, Nigeria.
March 12, 2015 – A woman killed at least 34 people after detonating an explosive device at a market in Maiduguri.
Feb 22, 2015 – A young girl killed five people and wounded dozens more in a bombing at a security checkpoint outside a market in Potiskum.
Feb 15, 2015 – A woman killed at least seven people in a bombing at a crowded bus station in Damaturu.
Feb 12, 2015 – A woman killed seven people in a suicide attack at a crowded market in Nigeria’s Borno state.
Jan 10, 2015 – A female suicide bomber killed 19 in an attack in Borno.
Dec 10, 2014 – Two female suicide bombers kill four in Kano.
Dec 1, 2014 – Two women suicide bombers kill five in Maiduguri.
Nov 26, 2014 – Two women suicide bombers killed 45 people at a crowded market in Maiduguri.
Nov 16, 2014 – A woman suicide bomber killed at least 12 in an attack at a cellphone market in Azare, Nigeria.
Nov 12, 2014 – A woman suicide bomber detonated her vest at a teacher training college in Kontagora in Nigeria’s central Niger State.
July 31, 2014 – A woman killed three people after detonating her explosives at a college in Kano, Nigeria.
July 30, 2014 – A teenage girl killed six people after blowing herself up among a crowd of students at a college campus in Kano.
July 28, 2014 – A young woman killed three people after detonating her bomb at a kerosene queue in Kano.
July 28, 2014 – A teenage girl injured six people after detonating a bomb at a shopping centre in Kano.
July 27, 2014 – A teenager with an explosive device concealed under her veil detonated her bomb up at a university campus in Kano, injuring five police officers.
June 25, 2014 – A woman detonated her bomb after parking her car next to a gasoline tanker at a fuel depot in Lagos, Nigeria.
June 8, 2014 – A middle-aged woman killed a policeman in a suicide attack at a military barracks in Gombe, Nigeria.