Spike in Nigeria suicide attacks using women and children

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Conflict between government and separatists has displaced 1.3 million people in Nigeria and left unaccompanied children prey to armed groups, UNICEF says. Photo: UNHCR/D. Mbaoirem

A sharp increase in suicide bombings has been reported in north-east Nigeria with women and children used in more than three-quarters of the attacks, UN experts say.

Children's agency UNICEF warned Tuesday that there have already been 27 suicide attacks in the first five months of this year, compared with just 26 in the whole of 2014.

Armed groups battling government forces are blamed for exploiting vulnerable children who are unaccompanied and displaced.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The UN children's agency reports that armed groups use women and children – and most often girls – as suicide bombers in north-east Nigeria because it's not as straightforward to carry out security checks on them.

Speaking from Nigeria, UNICEF's Laurent Dutordoir says that targets have included crowded markets, bus stations and schools.

"At least 75 per cent of the cases, we have strong indications that those attacks were carried out by women and children. We have nine documented cases for 2014 and 2015 in which children aged between seven and 17 were used as child suicide bombers, all of them girls."

Attacks have happened mainly in Borno and Yobe states where government and separatists are fighting for control.

But they've also been reported outside the conflict zones in Kano and Gombe states.

UNICEF says some children involved in the attacks had been abducted by armed groups, while others were unaccompanied minors who'd been displaced and were vulnerable to exploitation.

In total the agency estimates that conflict in Nigeria has displaced 743,000 children out of a total of 1.3 million people.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'13"

 

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