Boko Haram increasingly using children as bombers

WASHINGTON/ABUJA President Donald Trump's administration is pushing forward with plans to sell up to a dozen aircraft to Nigeria's air force for the fight against the extremist group Boko Haram, sources said on Monday, in a deal that could be worth up to $600 million.

Since January 2014, 117 children - more than 80 per cent of them girls - have been used in such attacks in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, UNICEF said in a new report.

Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF's regional director, says the very sight of children near marketplaces and checkpoints is sparking fear.

The use of child suicide bombers by the insurgents of Boko Haram has surged, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

Five suspects were arrested, according to the statement, which gave no further details.

Another 20-year-old Boko Haram member was arrested March 22 in Yobe state and "confessed his involvement in executing the sinister activities of the group". The British High Commission and USA embassy in Abuja did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A February 15 White House statement that provided a summary of the call said "President Trump expressed support for the sale of aircraft from the United States to support Nigeria's fight against Boko Haram".

The Department of State Security (DSS) said it has foiled a planned ISIS-linked Boko Haram attack on United States of America and United Kingdom embassies in Nigeria. Children have been used to carry out 27 attacks in the first three months of this year, after 30 such attacks last year.

While some of those kidnapped later managed to escape, and 21 were released thanks to government negotiations, more than 200 remain missing.

LEADERSHIP recalls that the USA government under President Barack Obama had in July 2015, refused to assist Nigeria with arms to strengthen its fight against the Boko Haram sect.

UNICEF also urged that children taken into custody for suspected links to armed groups should be immediately handed over to civilian authorities for reintegration, psychosocial support and safe spaces, so that they can recover.

"Young girls are spotted in the markets, and nighttime raids drag them from their beds".

Unicef says that in the same period a year ago there were nine cases.

  • Joanne Flowers