•Nigeria’s terror campaign has entered a new dimension
The insurgency spearheaded by the militant Islamic group Boko Haram has entered an even more terrifying dimension with the appearance of female suicide bombers. In Kano, two young women detonated bombs at a Catholic church and a fuel station, killing themselves and several others in the process. They were aged 15 and 19 years, respectively. Also, a 10-year-old girl with an explosives belt attached to her was apprehended in the company of two men suspected to be Boko Haram militants on their way to Katsina State.
The utilisation of young females as suicide bombers is a sobering realisation of the exact nature of the threat the Nigerian state is confronting. It can clearly be seen that Boko Haram’s tactics are evolving as its campaign of terror and intimidation spreads. First, there were the armed attacks and bombings of symbols of federal authority, such as police stations and military barracks; then there were the assaults on western educational institutions, followed by the mass murders and abductions of civilians. As its baleful influence has spread, the group has now taken to the act of claiming territory by raising its flag in areas it perceives as being under its control.
The murderous activities of this group have involved a variety of methods: planting bombs in stationary vehicles or refuse dumps; ramming bomb-laden vehicles into buildings and checkpoints; using male suicide bombers with explosive belts.
The utilisation of young female suicide bombers is an obvious response to increased security awareness and improved surveillance methods which have made it harder for male operatives to carry out their evil purpose. Young women are generally seen as less threatening, and their ability to wear the all-enclosing burka and hijab makes it easier to shroud their identities and conceal their deadly cargo.
It is still difficult for many Nigerians to understand how anybody, much less young women, can willingly accept to kill themselves for a cause, no matter how noble it may seem to be. However, when it is realised that Boko Haram may in fact be tapping into an already-established tradition of terror, much of this mystification disappears. There are allegations that the insurgents may have entered into a strategic alliance with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on training and the procurement of weapons. It is very likely that the methods of indoctrination used by the former on its own suicide bombers are being used to brainwash Nigerians.
Already, there are speculations that the girls abducted in Chibok last April are either being readied for suicide bombings or have even been deployed in the next phase of Boko Haram’s campaign. Regardless of whether it is true or not, the possibility is too terrible to contemplate, and is yet another reason why the Federal Government must step up its efforts to rescue them. They have endured captivity for over three months; that is long enough for some to have succumbed to the blandishments of their captors.
The evolution of the terrorists’ tactics is also a stark warning that Nigeria’s anti-insurgency operatives cannot afford to rest on their oars. This is a battle for hearts and minds, and as such, must be fought on multiple levels. Greater educational, employment and political opportunities must be provided for youths in the north-east to wean them away from the insurgents. Increased intelligence-gathering must be utilised in understanding insurgent strategies, anticipating attacks and identifying their bases. More efforts should be made in tracing the terrorists’ sources of funding and exposing those who are behind them.
Above all, Nigerians must accept the battle against terror as their own and unite to fight it. Making baseless accusations against political opponents will not solve the problem, and will in fact embolden those who seek to use terror as an instrument of political policy.
This post was originally published on this site