The BBC has created a visually stunning and heartbreaking report on the phenomenon of female suicide bombers in Nigeria, many of whom were abducted by Boko Haram or other militant groups.
The report, illustrated in the style of graphic novel, leverages the narrative of a young Boko Haram abductee to describe the strategy and highlight the dynamics that have led Boko Haram to adopt the use of this weapon in its struggle against the Nigerian state. It is based, in part, on the work of terrorism researcher Elizabeth Pearson, who has studied the use of female suicide bombers by Boko Haram.
From the BBC report:
Sanaa Mehaydali is thought to have been the first female suicide bomber in modern history.
The 16-year-old killed herself and two Israeli soldiers in a suicide attack in southern Lebanon in 1985.
Since then, militant groups such as Hezbollah, the Kurdish PKK, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Hamas and Black Widows in Chechnya, have all used women and girls to carry out suicide attacks.
But Boko Haram has outstripped any one group by far in the scale of its brutality, according to Elizabeth Pearson, associate fellow at the Royal United Service Institute in London.
She estimates that hundreds of young girls have been forced to carry out attacks in the past three years, in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
In the report Pearson notes that the organization gained far more publicity from using young girls as suicide bombers compared to earlier operations carried out by boys or men. This, in part, has encouraged Boko Haram’s continued use of girls.
Now on to this week’s look back.
- Feb. 12, 1974 — Latimer, Buckinghamshire, England: The Irish Republican Army detonates a bomb at the National Defense College, wounding 10.
- Feb. 13, 2003 — Pennsylvania: Federal agents arrest David Wayne Hull, imperial wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and an adherent to Christian Identity theology, alleging that he had arranged to buy hand grenades in order to attack abortion clinics.
- Feb. 14, 2011 — Bahrain: The 14 February Youth Coalition forms, growing out of ongoing political unrest. It is later suspected of involvement in a series of firebomb and attacks against Western interests.
- Feb, 15, 1999 — Turkey: Abdullah Ocalan, the fugitive leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) is arrested in Kenya with the assistance of U.S. intelligence and returned to Turkey.
- Feb. 16, 2013 — Hazara, Pakistan: A bomb kills 84 and injures more than 190 near Quetta. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni supremacist organization which has carried out sectarian attacks against Shiite Muslims, claims responsibility.
- Feb. 17, 2012 — Washington, D.C.: Amine El Khalife is arrested in an undercover FBI operation, accused of planning to cary out a suicide bombing at the Capitol building. The Moroccan citizen was in the country illegally, having entered the U.S. on a visitor’s visa at the age of 16 and then staying after his visa expired.
- Feb. 18, 2010 — Austin, Texas: Joseph Andrew Stack, who had been associated with radical anti-tax groups, flies his single-engine airplane into a building housing offices of the IRS. Stack and an IRS manager are killed and 13 are injured in the attack. Prior to the attack Stack had posted online a lengthy manifesto criticizing the IRS, the tax code, politicians, and corporations.
Kristin Kahrs says
The BBC piece is a reminder that young women of color are the most vulnerable humans on the planet.
Pete Trumbore says
That’s a true fact.