KANO, Nigeria (AFP) – A 14-year-old Nigerian girl who was arrested with explosives strapped to her body told journalists Wednesday that her parents volunteered her to take part in a suicide attack.
The girl, who was identified as Zahra’u Babangida, was arrested in Kano on December 10 following a double suicide bombing in a market that killed 10 people.
She was presented to journalists by police and instructed to recount how militants allegedly forced her to take part in the attack.
She said her mother and father, both Boko Haram sympathisers, took her to an insurgent hideout in a forest near the town of Gidan Zana in Kano state.
She said one alleged militant leader asked her whether she knew what a suicide bombing was.
“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,” Zahra’u told journalists.
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.