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Some devastating suicide bomb attacks in Nigeria and the resurgence of female bombers in North-East, by Ayuba Ahmad

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Some devastating suicide bomb attacks in Nigeria and the resurgence of female bombers in North-East, by Ayuba Ahmad

Commenting on the incident of the suicide bombers assault on the nation’s Police Force headquarters June 11, 2011, John Campbell, in a publication of, “Africa in Transition”, noted:

“Suicide is rare in Nigeria and is generally regarded as an anathema. There is nothing like the cult of suicide martyrs to be found in the Middle East.

“Boko Haram is claiming that it can deploy militants (suicide bombers) who have been trained in Somalia. If true….it would indicate an important and dangerous evolution for the Boko Haram.”

Gwoza, an otherwise alluringly scenic and serene agrarian community is, in the present times and circumstances, unfortunately disadvantaged by its location of being helmed by two natural, geographic features.

Some devastating suicide bomb attacks in Nigeria and the resurgence of female bombers in North-East, by Ayuba Ahmad

In the years past, the sprawling Sambisa forest and the imposing, awesome Mandara mountain, served as tourist attractions as well as sources of economic activities and prosperity to the communities and even peoples from afar.

Today, sadly, Sambisa forest and the Mandara mountain have metamorphosed into labyrinths of monsters that come visiting intermittently with their trademarks of deaths and wanton destruction. That is, talking of the armies of the Boko Haram insurgents which, since their dislodgement from their erstwhile strongholds in Maiduguri and other cities in 2009, relocated largely to the two difficult, impregnable natural fortresses.

Some devastating suicide bomb attacks in Nigeria and the resurgence of female bombers in North-East, by Ayuba Ahmad

After a three-year respite from the menace, the agents of deaths and sorrows visited last Saturday, 29th of June, 2024. It was a horrific reminder to the people of Gwoza of their nightmarish experiences of the days, years better, now receding into a distant past, even as the scars and agonies are yet to completely heal.

In the last Saturday’s episode of the sprouts of carnage, about thirty people, consisting of men and women, children and the elderly, had their lives gruesomely terminated. About three hundred others reportedly suffered varying degrees of injuries and were rushed to the hospitals in hope of salvaging their lives.

READ ALSO: 2 female suicide bombers arrested in Borno after deadly blast

In a gory account of the blood cuddling mayhem, the Director General of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, Dr Barkindo M Saidu, talked of deaths and people with ruptured stomachs and fractured limbs and skulls:

“In my presence, at about exactly 3:pm, the first bomb blast in Gwoza occurred, detonated by a female suicide bomber in the midst of a marriage ceremony celebration. It affected more than 30 persons with various levels of injuries and instant death.

Some devastating suicide bomb attacks in Nigeria and the resurgence of female bombers in North-East, by Ayuba Ahmad

“Some minutes later, another blast occurred around the General Hospital. Again, at the funeral services (janaiza), another lady rushed onto the congregation and detonated another one with a lot of casualties.
“We were in the hospital coordinating the rescue mission, and another one exploded from a female teenager. So far, 32 deaths comprising children, adult male, females, and pregnant women have been recorded.

“19 seriously injured were conveyed to Maiduguri in four ambulances, 23 are waiting for military escort in the Medical Regimental Services (MRS) Clinic. I am now coordinating for chopper this night. I have mobilised emergency drugs to complement the shortage of drugs in Gwoza.

“The degree of injuries ranges from abdominal raptures, skull fractures, and limb fractures. Also, I received a report that there is a suspected suicide bomber in Pulka,” he narrated.

Is the recent Gwoza episode a warning signal from the Islamists of the resurgence of the era of suicide bombings? The military and the government have severally assured that, “Boko Haram has become a spent force.” Nigerians generally, hope and pray that the authorities are right in their assessment that the capacity of the group to wreak havoc has been truly, thoroughly degraded.

It suffices to recall some of the incidents of suicide bombings by the group to appreciate why Nigerians are concerned that, last Saturday’s mayhem in Gwoza could well be an ominous signal of the resurgence of a frightful modus operandi of the Islamists.

On June 11, 2011, in its earliest resort to the use of suicide bombings in its war against the country, Boko Haram carried out an audacious assault, by way of suicide bombing on the national headquarters of the Police Force, the Louis Edet House.

The mission failed to hit it’s obvious target, then Inspector General, IGP Hafiz Ringim, but it however, succeeded in killing about five people, injuring scores, with many vehicles and windows up to the seventh floor blown out.

On the 27th of August, 2011, barely two months after Louis Edet House, another set of Boko Haram operatives carried out daylight suicide bombing on the Nigerian office of the United Nations in Abuja. 18 people were officially confirmed killed and several others injured in the incident.

Yet in the year 2011, on Christmas day, the group’s agents wreaked havoc on worshippers at the Saint Theresa Catholic church, Madalla, Niger State where not less fourty people died instantly, many sustained severe injuries and extensive damages done to vehicles and structures in the vicinity.

Almost simultaneously, similar attacks by suicide bombers visited the Gadaka church in Yobe State and the Mountain of Fire and Miracles in Jos, Plateau State. As it was inevitable, there were dead and injured people in the aftermaths of the two incidents.

In November 28th, 2014, the “jihadists” sent very powerful shockwaves across the nation and beyond, when swarms of their suicide bombers invaded the Kano Central Mosque during the Friday congregational prayers. By the time the dust settled down, there were over one hundred dead bodies and many more numbers injured. A commentator aptly described the level of casualties as been on, “staggering scale.”

In 2014, three years after introducing the phase of suicide bombings, Boko Haram deployed its first female suicide bombers. The first ever known incident occured in July 2014. Coming barely three months after the abduction of 276 Chibok school girls, it was then widely speculated that three female suicide bombers might have been part of the Chibok girls.

Occurring as the fourth of such incidents in less than a year, the popular, ever crowded Maiduguri Monday market experienced, in January, 2015, experienced the phenomenon of a suicide bomber. Strangely, on that occasion, the bomber was a ten year old girl! Over twenty people, men, women, children and the elderly were killed.

Two previous incidents at the market, the biggest market in the Borno State capital, occured in November, 2014, when 45 people died and in December of the same year, which resulted in the death of ten people.

The July 15, 2015 multiple female bombing at the Baga fish market has retained the notoriety of being the most gruesome, so far in the casualty figures of bombing by women Boko Haram activists. A whopping, blood chilling 2000 people perished on that occasion.

Year 2016 especially witnessed a high frequency of bombings by female members of Boko Haram.

Among others, there was the incident of 22nd August in which bombs detonated by two female bombers killed 58 people and that of the 9th of December at Madagali, Adamawa State that caused the death of 45 people.

In what can be described as a lull in the spate of the phenomenon, the year 2017 recorded sparingly few incidents of suicide bombings by the Boko Haram. But in November, 50 people died from suicide bombings at the Madina mosque, Unguwar Shuwa area of Mubi, Adamawa State, while, 12 people lost their lives in the suicide bombings by four bombers, two men and two women, at the Muna neighbourhood, in Maiduguri.

Suicide bombings by Boko Haram did occured in the subsequent years of 2018 through to 2023. But the incidents however would appeared to be reducing in their tempo with the passage of the years. Untill, the shockwave last Saturday from Gwoza.

The poignant fact emerging from the phenomena of the Boko Haram suicide bombings, is that majority of all the ascertained suicide bombers were of the female gender of varying ages. Latest reports from Maiduguri in respect of the Gwoza incident, said the arrested bombers, who did not get to the point of carrying out their deadly mission were all females.

Another matter highlighted earlier are the reports confirming that the monsters came out from the labyrinths of the Sambisa forest and the Mandara mountains.

Out of the other intriguing puzzles, one question that stands out is why the preponderance of women among the suicide bombers of the Boko Haram? In this regard, cognisance must be given to the point that, beside their latest outing in Gwoza last Saturday, there have been, overall, far greater number of women Boko Haram suicide bombers than men! The group also has blood-stained gold medal of having used the highest number of women suicide bombers ever, in the global comity of terrorists organisations.

Boko Haram first deployed female suicide bombers in 2014, three years after resorting to the tactics in their ferocious campaign against the country. Between 2014 and 2018, there were reportedly 1,200 deaths and 3000 injured consequent on the suicide attacks.

According to the Global Terrorism Database, GTD, “The numbers have no doubt climbed in the years since.” That indeed, is the case. According to another statistics provided by the GTD, women on the whole, constitute 56.2% of the total number of Boko Haram suicide bombers. And at the peak of the incidents of their suicide bombings, January to June 2017, “a shocking, 65.4% of the Boko Haram suicide bombers were females compared to the global average.

Scholars and experts of different callings have advanced variegated explanations for the uniquely large number of women among the Boko Haram suicide bombers. Some believe that, “It is the peculiar cultural and social constructs of the area” that make it easy for the leadership of the insurgency to recruit and manipulate the potential women suicide bombers.

Women in that region are seen to be attractive to the Boko Haram leadership because of the nature of their dressing, such as the flowing attires that can easily conceal explosives strapped to their bodies. In a lot of instances, female suicides bombers have been caught concealing bombs on their backs giving the false impression of carrying babies.

Given the paucity in the number of women in the security agencies and the taboo culturally attached to men rummaging women in the process of security searching, female suicide bombers will easily slip through security cordons or checks.

There is on the one hand, the postulation that coercion, torture and threats of death are the greatest instruments used in forcing majority of the women to accept to embark on suicide bombing missions.

On the other hand, there are opinions that linked female suicide bombings to the high level of poverty which makes it easy for women to be susceptible to material inducement. For example, some arrested female suicide bombers have made the amazing and pathetic revelation that they were given as little as two hundred Naira to eat before going on the mortal journeys of suicide bombings.

Given that majority of the female bombers are very young, with some of them as young as 7 years old, it is held by some analysts that the leadership of Boko Haram play on the girls’ ignorance, lack of education (in the Islamic and western sense) as well as their impressionable minds, making them gullible to the assurance of making paradise as martyrs in the hereafter.

Instances have also been reported where parents or guardians prevail on their female wards to go on the mission of suicide bombings. Such parents or guardians either fanatically believe that their actions are in the ways of God or, they are being paid for donating their children or wards. Some of such parents or guardians could also been forced to sacrifice their daughters and wards on the pain of death or similar dire consequences.

True indeed, much have been recorded in decapitating the monster of Boko Haram. But the latest bloodletting in Gwoza as a result of the multiple suicide bombings, should serve as a warning to the authorities and the general public that we cannot as yet, lower our guards. The need for vigilance is still very much with us because, the smouldering embers of Boko Haram remains alive and lethal.

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