The number of children, mainly girls, used by the Nigerian armed group Boko Haram as “human bombs” has quadrupled this year, according to UNICEF.
The UN’s children agency said on Tuesday that since January 1, 2017, 83 children have been used by the group to carry out bomb attacks in north-eastern Nigeria – four times higher than it was for the entirety of 2016.
The body said 55 of them were girls, most often under the age of 15. Twenty-seven were boys, and one was a baby strapped to a girl.
“UNICEF is extremely concerned about an appalling increase in the cruel and calculated use of children, especially girls, as ‘human bombs’ in northeast Nigeria,” the agency said. “The use of children in this way is an atrocity.”
UNICEF said that Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden”, has sometimes, but not always, claimed responsibility for these attacks.
The UN body did not give an explanation for the rise in numbers.
“We feel this is just the way Boko Haram terrorises women and children in the community,” Milen Kidane, UNICEF’s chief of child protection, told Al Jazeera from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
Hafsat Muhammed, a Nigerian rights activist and journalist, said the actual number of children used by the armed group is even higher.
“The conflict has reached to a stage that these insurgents are diverting attention by using children,” she told Al Jazeera.
Muhammed said that armed groups like Boko Haram give children a sense of belonging in a society where they do not have the basic necessities.
“Children tend to fall into the hands of Boko Haram, who would then reign over them and use them, just because they feel that they belong and they have persuaded them that maybe this is the cause of life,” she explained.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera