LAGOS, Nigeria — Aisha, 9 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.