Teenager Seized for Boko Haram Attack Tells How She Tore off Suicide Vest and Fled
Girl feared going against orders but was even more afraid of killing her father who she knew was staying at the crowded camp in Nigeria that was her target.
Strapped with a suicide bomb vest and sent by the extremist Boko Haram group to kill as many people as possible, the teenage girl tore off the explosives and fled as soon as she was out of sight of her handlers.
Her two companions, however, completed their grisly mission and walked into a crowd of hundreds at Dikwa refugee camp in north-east Nigeria and blew themselves up, killing 58 people.
Later found by local security forces, the girl’s tearful account is one of the first indications at least some of the child bombers used by Boko Haram are aware they are about to die and kill others.
Modu Awami, a self-defence fighter who helped question the girl, said: “She said she was scared because she knew she would kill people. But she was also frightened of going against the instructions of the men who brought her to the camp.”
She was among thousands held captive for months by the extremists, according to Algoni Lawan, a spokesman for the Ngala local government area that has many residents at the camp and who is privy to information about her interrogation by security forces.
“She confessed to our security operatives that she was worried if she went ahead and carried out the attack that she might kill her own father, who she knew was in the camp,” he said on Thursday.
The girl tried to persuade her companions to abandon the mission, he said, “but she said she could not convince the two others to change their minds”.
Her story was corroborated when she led soldiers to the unexploded vest, Awami said on Thursday, speaking by phone from the refugee camp, which holds 50,000 people who have fled Boko Haram’s Islamist uprising.
The girl is in custody and has given officials information about other planned bombings that has helped them increase security at the camp, said Satomi Ahmed, the chairman of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency.
The US on Thursday strongly condemned the bombings. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US remained committed to assisting those affected by the conflict and it supported efforts to provide greater protection for civilians and the regional fight against terrorism.
Boko Haram’s six-year Islamist insurgency has killed 20,000 people, made 2.5 million homeless and spread across Nigeria’s borders.
The extremists have kidnapped thousands of people and the increasing number of suicide bombings by girls and children have raised fears they are turning some captives into weapons. An army bomb disposal expert said some suicide bombs were detonated remotely, removing control from the carriers.
Even two days later, it is unclear how many people died at Dikwa because there were corpses and body parts everywhere, including in the cooking pots, Awami said. “Women, children, men and aged persons all died,” he said. “I cannot say the exact number as some cannot be counted because the bodies were all mangled.”
The latest atrocity blamed on Boko Haram extremists was committed against people who had been driven from the homes by the insurgents and had spent a year across the border in Cameroon.
Some 12,000 of them had returned to Nigeria only in January when soldiers declared the area safe. The scene of the killings is 50km from the border with Cameroon and 85km north-east of Maiduguri, the biggest city in the north-east and the birthplace of Boko Haram.
Such attacks make it difficult for the government to persuade people to return home. The extremists have also razed homes and businesses, destroyed wells and boreholes and stolen livestock and seed grains that farmers need to start their life again.