July 13, 2024
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Gwoza attacks: Why Boko Haram chooses females for suicide bombing

Key Points:

  • Boko Haram uses more female than male suicide bombing

  • How the sect persuades women to become suicide bombers

  • Gwoza still under Boko Haram control

  • Borno residents worry as government ‘pampers’ repentant Boko Haram fighters

  • ‘Government must defeat Boko Haram before granting them amnesty’

By Theophilus Abbah

Boko Haram terrorists choose women for suicide bombing because experience and studies have shown that female suicide bombers are tougher and single-minded, than their male counterparts, in carrying out devastating attacks on targets.

The multiple suicide bomb attacks in Gwoza, Borno State on Saturday, June 29, 2024 were carried out by females. They led to the death of 32 persons and the injury of about 100 persons. The female suicide bombers detonated the lethal weapons at three unexpected locations: a wedding reception, a cemetery, and a hospital.

“…Shoot the women first” if they were found among terrorists

As a result of the discovery that female suicide bombers could be more dangerous than male bombers, the European counter-terrorist forces, trained by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), have instructed officers to “shoot the women first” if they were found among terrorists.

Simon Jeffrey, an expert says: “There have been some instances reported in which male terrorists, when faced with a confrontation with police or other counter-terrorist forces, hesitated for a moment before they fired their weapons, whereas the female terrorists shot at once.”

However, before they are enlisted for suicide bombing, female suicide bombers are brainwashed to believe their deaths would be a transition to paradise or heaven.

In a 2016 interview, one of three female would-be suicide-bombers, billed to attack Dikwa Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp, in Borno State  rather dodged the deadly assignment and  later told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), how they were persuaded to accept to become bombers, using the scriptures.

The young lady, named Hauwa, revealed that Boko Haram commanders told the three girls that they would go to paradise, if they made the ultimate self-sacrifice.

Two of the girls accomplished the mission on February 9, 2016, killing as many as 58 persons in the camp. The third suicide bomber declined to detonate the weapon but rather found her way to meet her family members in Dikwa IDP camp instead.

Rituals before suicide bombers are sent on deadly mission

Studies have shown that terrorist leaders engaged in some rituals before sending young men or women on suicide mission. Some terrorist groups would take the designated suicide bomber to a cemetery, where he or she is bound and laid in a grave for a certain period of time, wearing shrouds. Burial ceremonies would be conducted on them, meaning that though they may still be alive, they were considered to have died. They will be designated to be living martyrs.

Afterward, they are brought out from the grave, taken to a certain location, subjected to  sermons about life after death. They would be taken to a secret location where they record their last messages to friends and family members, before they are guided to the location where they would detonate the suicide bomb.

In some cases, the living-dead is made to carry the lethal weapon on his body, but another terrorist who observes from a short distance would press a button that would cause the weapon to explode, killing the suicide bomber and persons targeted for elimination in the blast.

A researcher, Elizabeth Pearson, says that between 2014 when Boko Haram began to deploy female suicide bombers for its violent jihad and February 28, 2018 when she published her report, Boko Haram has deployed several hundreds of women or girls on the suicide mission.

She wrote: “As of February 28, 2018, a recorded 469 female “suicide bombers” have been deployed or arrested in 240 incidents, and they have killed more than 1,200 people across four countries: Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Almost 3,000 more people have been injured.”

Other sources that corroborate Pearson’s research says Boko Haram has used more female suicide bombers than male suicide bombers to attack civilians and the military. Between 2011 and 2017, the sect had sent 434 persons on suicide mission. A total of 234  of the suicide bombers were female; 94 were male, while the gender of 96 others were not clear.

Gwoza, Boko Haram

Chart showing how Boko Haram chooses females more than males for suicide bombing, based on 2011-2017 suicide attacks


Gwoza as Boko Haram’s soft target:

In spite of the repentance of thousands of former Boko Haram fighters or members, all of them being rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society, the terrorists still have a foothold in local governments in Borno State.

A resident of Maiduguri explained the situation thus: “Gwoza is on the fringes of Sambisa Forest, infiltrated and occupied by Boko Haram for over a decade now. It is a difficult terrain; there is the Mandara Hills, where they (Boko Haram) escape to after carrying out their attacks. They are in control of Gwoza area. I think the recent attacks were meant to dispel government’s frequent claims that Boko Haram had been defeated.”

The Speaker of Borno State House of Assembly, Abdulkarim Lawan, corroborated the above explanation, when on June 12, 2024, on Democracy Day, he lamented that his own Guzamala Local Government Area was not accessible for about a decade now.

Lawan was quoted as saying, “We have held three elections in IDP camps because our local government area is not safe. We cannot continue like this. Our people are either living as refugees in the Niger Republic or as IDPs in Monguno, Gajiram, and some in host communities here in Maiduguri. We plead with the federal government of Nigeria and its military to, as a matter of responsibility, help reclaim Guzamala Local Government to enable our people to return and continue with what remains of their battered lives. We are tired of living as IDPs. We need deployment of the military to Guzamala because everything that defines civil authorities has been displaced. All our district heads and village heads are taking refuge far away from their ancestral communities.”

It is not clear if military has the capacity or if the government has the political will to mobilize the military to reclaim some of the territories under the control of Boko Haram in Borno State

Governor Babagana Zulum, in 2022, corroborated the Speaker’s observation by saying two local governments – Guzamala and Abadam – were still under the control of Boko Haram. He had said,  “I am pleased to inform you that we have started witnessing a gradual return of peace, but more need to be done, because, presently, Guzamala and Abadam Local Government Areas are still under the control of Boko Haram, although, the current Service Chiefs, the Theatre Commander, and indeed our General Officer Commanding 7 Division are up and doing. We want to commend the military and other paramilitary personnel for their gallant efforts to see to the end of terrorism in this part of the country.

It is not clear if military has the capacity or if the government has the political will to mobilize the military to reclaim some of the territories under the control of Boko Haram in Borno State, especially. In May 2024, the army claimed to have killed 640 terrorists, but claimed that in Borno State, “troops also recorded 1,099 surrendered BH/ISWAP terrorists’ combatants and their families as they recovered 200 AK47 rifles and 53 fabricated rifles among others.”

Suleiman Ali, who hails from Gubio but now resides in Maiduguri, gave examples of the failure of the military to tackle even known terrorists.

He said, “In 2022, there was a well-known Boko Haram Amir who came to the Gubio market to sell his agricultural produce. The people knew him; they decided to challenge him on one market day. What happened next was shocking; he mobilized Boko Haram fighters who came to Gubio to attack the village and burnt down many houses. The military knew the Amir, but they allowed him to do his trading freely. Boko Haram commanders, known ones, even come to Maiduguri to do business. But the military does not stop them for questioning.”

Suicide bombing, Gwoza

File photo of a scene after suicide bomber struck Maiduguri in one of the numerous attacks.

As far as he was concerned, government no longer wanted to fight to defeat Boko Haram, so they were being begged to repent and be given largesse.

“Can you imagine what is happening in Maiduguri?” Suleiman said. “Boko Haram fighters who killed civilians and soldiers claim to have repented. They are given some trainings, paid monthly allowances, and given walkie-talkie and private cars to drive around town. Meanwhile, family members of those killed and wounded are living in IDP camps, suffering. The State Government is planning to build an estate for ‘repentant Boko Haram.’ We can’t understand this situation. Instead to defeating and punishing these terrorists, government is pampering and empowering them.”

Read also:       The Taliban, Boko Haram, and What Nigeria must do urgently

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