West and North Africa
Girl, 14, arrested in crowded marketplace with bomb strapped around her waist claims she was handed to Boko Haram extremists by her parents and was forced to wear suicide belt
- Zahra’u Babangida was taken to a Boko Haram hideout by her parents
- Terrorists told her they would shoot her if she didn’t wear a suicide vest
- The fanatics told her she would go to paradise if she blew herself up
- She wore the suicide vest but refused to go through with the attack
- First known case of parents volunteering their daughter for suicide attack
Zahra’u told journalists: ‘They said, “Can you do it?” I said no.
‘They said, “You will go to heaven if you do it.” I said “no I can’t”. They said they would shoot me or throw me into a dungeon.’
There was no way to independently verify her story and she had no lawyer present. No information was available concerning the whereabouts of her parents.
Police said they had instructed the girl to tell her story to boost public awareness about those responsible for the December 10 attack.
Faced with the threat of death, Zahra’u said she finally agreed to take part in the attack but ‘never had any intention of doing it’.
Several days later, Zahra’u said, she and three other girls, all wearing explosives, were brought to the Kantin Kwari market by unidentified men.
Zahra’u said she was injured when one of the girls detonated her bomb and then she fled the scene, ending up at a hospital on the outskirts of Kano where she was discovered to be carrying explosives.
Boko Haram has increasingly used female suicide bombers, including teenagers, as part of their five-year insurgency.
Kano, the largest city in the mainly Muslim north, saw four such attacks in one week in July, while similar bombings have hit the states of Bauchi and Niger.
Experts say the group has used girls as bombers to demonstrate the range of tactics they have available to sow fear across Nigeria.
If confirmed, Zahra’u’s story would be the first known case of parents volunteering their daughter to take part in a deadly attack.
Violence in northern Nigeria has intensified in recent months, raising security fears ahead of February 14 elections.