A 10-year-old girl strapped with a suicide bomber’s explosives belt has been taken into police custody alongside her 18-year-old sister in northern Nigeria, police said.
Their arrest on Wednesday came shortly before another female suicide attacker blew herself up at a higher-education college in the nearby city of Kano, killing six people in the fourth such attack using women in a week.
Security sources suspect Boko Haram, Nigeria’s al-Qaeda-linked Islamist insurgents, has shifted its tactics to using women and girls indoctrinated by male relatives, or else forced to carry out attacks against their will.
The 10-year-old, Hadiza Musa, and her sister, Zainab Musa, 18, were being driven by a man in his 20s late in the evening in Funtua town, west of Kano, when they were stopped at a police roadblock and ordered out of their Honda hatchback.
“They were asked to alight but when they got down, officers saw that the youngest one was strapped with explosives, it was an IED on a vest she was wearing,” Mike Omeri, a Nigerian government spokesman, told The Telegraph.
“The girl did not offer resistance and she was stopped and her vest was demobilised. We have not yet forensically investigated it, but it was prepared and would have caused havoc.
“The older girl and the man tried to escape but they were cut off by ordinary citizens and arrested. We are questioning them.”
Using female suicide bombers appears to be a new tactic of Boko Haram in Kano, although they have used them on occasion for years further north in Nigeria.
Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up at a trade show and a petrol station in Kano on Monday, killing one other person and injuring at least six others.
On Sunday, a female suicide bomber killed herself but no one else while trying to target police officers.
“We wish to assure Nigerians that the government is putting all efforts and resources into countering the violent insurgency by Boko Haram,” he said.
“It is reprehensible that the terrorists are now using little girls that they have indoctrinated, or lured, or tricked and forced into being involved in something they have no reason in their mind to understand.”
In a separate incident on Tuesday, two suicide bombers killed 13 people in attacks on two mosques in the town of Potiskum, in Yobe state in the northeast. Boko Haram was again suspected.
The group, whose name translates roughly as “Western education is sin”, is holding more than 200 schoolgirls hostage that its forces kidnapped close to four months ago.
International efforts to locate and free them have been fruitless.