Girls ‘aged 7 or 8’ stage suicide attack in Nigeria

Residents gathering near the scene of a suicide bomb attack on a market in Maiduguri, after two young girls blew themselves up, killing themselves and wounding at least 17 others.
Residents gathering near the scene of a suicide bomb attack on a market in Maiduguri, after two young girls blew themselves up, killing themselves and wounding at least 17 others. PHOTO: AFP

KANO, NIGERIA (AFP) - Two girls thought to be only seven or eight years old strapped with explosives were blown up in a north-eastern Nigerian market on Sunday (Dec 11), killing them and one other person and wounding 18 others, sources said.

The girls were "seven or eight", Mr Abdulkarim Jabo, a local militia member in Maiduguri, told AFP.

The attack was not immediately claimed by Boko Haram but bore the hallmarks of the militants, who routinely use women and girls to carry out suicide attacks, often in Borno state, the epicentre of their insurgency.

Borno Governor Kashim Shettima, visiting victims in the hospital, confirmed the toll in the attack.

Mr Jabo said he saw the girls on Sunday immediately before the explosion.

"They got out of a rickshaw and walked right in front of me without showing the slightest sign of emotion," he said.

"I tried to speak with one of them, in Hausa and in English, but she didn't answer. I thought they were looking for their mother," he added.

"She headed toward the poultry sellers, and then detonated her explosives belt."

The second explosion was apparently triggered slightly later as bystanders were helping the wounded.  “We removed 17 people with different degrees of injuries,” said Bello Dambatta of the local emergency management agency.  “The mutilated bodies of the two suicide bombers were also evacuated.”

Boko Haram terrorists have laid waste to northeast Nigeria since they took up arms against the government in 2009. They are seeking to impose a hardline Islamic legal system on the country’s mainly-Muslim north.

On Friday, at least 45 people died and 33 others were wounded in another double suicide attack carried out by female bombers in the north-east.

Boko Haram militants have laid waste to north-east Nigeria since they took up arms against the government in 2009.  

At least 20,000 people have been killed and more than two and a half million more displaced by the unrest.  

Rights groups say thousands of women and girls have been abducted by the group. In the most infamous incident, in 2014, more than 200 schoolgirls were taken in the remote town of Chibok.  

The extremists have used abducted females as sex slaves and human bombs, while boys are enlisted to fight.  

North-east Nigeria has been buffeted in recent weeks by devastating attacks.  

On Friday, at least 45 people died and 33 others were wounded in another double suicide attack carried out by female bombers at a marketplace in the town of Madagali.  

In October another set of female suicide bombers killed 17 people at a station near a camp for internally displaced persons.  

In February 2015, Boko Haram used an eight-year-old to carry out a suicide attack in Potiskum, in Yobe state, and a 10- and 18-year-old pair were involved in a failed July 2014 attack in Funtua, in north-western Katsina state.