Boy, 11, trained as suicide bomber to attack refugees

Michelle Faul and Haruna Umar
Associated Press

An 11-year-old boy arrested by soldiers says Boko Haram trained him as a suicide bomber and his mission was to blow himself up among refugees in a northeast Nigerian camp.

The boy is suspect No. 82 on a poster showing photographs of 100 wanted Boko Haram militants, according to army spokesman Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman.

“The child said he was sneaked into the camp as a displaced child to get familiarized with the people and wait for the day he would be prompted to carry (out) his own suicide attack,” Usman said in a statement.

He said the boy was arrested Tuesday by troops guarding Dalori refugee camp in Maiduguri, the northeastern city that is the birthplace of Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremist group.

He told interrogators that three other children trained with him already have died in suicide attacks. The statement gave no details of which attacks.

The boy was still being interrogated, in the Hausa language that is all he speaks, at a military camp in Maiduguri on Friday, according to an officer at the camp who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.

Hundreds of people have died in recent months in suicide bombings in mosques, market places, restaurants, bus stations and other crowded areas. In September, a blast from an improvised explosive device killed at least seven people at a camp for refugees in the northeastern city of Yola, 250 miles south of Maiduguri.

Boko Haram has taken its uprising across Nigeria’s northeastern border and there also have been kidnappings and suicide bombings in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Many bombers are young women and children — one girl bomber reportedly looked as young as 7. A military bomb expert has told the AP that some suicide bombs have been detonated remotely. That has led to speculation that Boko Haram is turning kidnap victims into unwilling weapons.

Usman identified the 11-year-old detainee as a resident of Bama, a town 45 miles northeast of Maiduguri, but did not say if he had been abducted or indoctrinated. Nigeria’s air force and army had reported destroying several Boko Haram camps around Bama in August, and rescuing 178 people including 101 children held captive by the extremists.

“Due to the concerted efforts of the military, quite a number of towns and villages hitherto held by the Boko Haram terrorists were liberated,” Usman said. “This brought about an unprecedented influx of IDPs (internally displaced people) to the camp, which the terrorists took advantage (of) and infiltrated in order to wreak more havoc.”

He said the 11-year-old had identified a Boko Haram member among adults in Dalori camp, who has been arrested. Usman said this highlighted the need for proper screening of refugees. Dalori is the biggest refugee camp in the northeast, holding some 30,000 people.

The boy is at least the fourth person arrested since the military five weeks ago began distributing a photographic collage of 100 wanted Boko Haram militants. No names were attached since most images are screen grabs from videos seized in raids on Boko Haram camps or published on the Internet by the extremists, Usman has said.

One video published by Boko Haram showed children training to shoot with assault rifles.

The boy is shown in the bottom right-hand corner of the poster, a cap covering his head, his arms raised in prayer.