A female suicide bomber struck a busy bus station in the northeast Nigeria city of Damaturu on Sunday afternoon. The girl killed at least 10 people, although some estimate that she took the lives of 16 people in the attack. 30 others were injured in the blast.
The teenage girl slipped through the security checkpoint at the bus station and detonated herself at around 1 p.m. local time. A witness who saw the bodies said that the girl looked to be about 16. Most of the victims were children, who sell water and peanuts at the station. Some were begging. The witness said that he saw 16 bodies and over 30 injured. An anonymous worker at the Damaturu Specialists Hospital told reporters that eight bodies had been taken to the mortuary there.
Witnesses said that the bomber looked nervous as she made her way into the station. She passed through the security checkpoint at the station without being detained and detonated an explosive before anyone had a chance to alert security officials. People in the area quickly became panicked.
Damaturu has often been the target of aggression by Boko Haram. In December, the organization attempted to take over the city, but in a drawn out battle, the insurgents were repelled. Although the northeast region of Nigeria has often been targeted, the teenager’s strike on the bus station is the first suicide bombing that has taken place in Damaturu. No organization has taken credit for prompting her attack. However, it does fit the pattern of the Islamist group Boko Haram, whose campaign to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria killed an estimated 10,000 people last year.
Over the last year, Boko Haram has been active in the northeast region of Nigeria. The insurgency has been increasing its use of young, female suicide bombers. Last April, they captured more than 200 school-aged girls, who are still missing. It is believed that Boko Haram employs women as suicide bombers because they can more easily hide explosives under their clothing.
The increasing unrest in Nigeria led to the postponement of its elections until March. The elections were supposed to take place on February 14. The election was postponed to give President Goodluck Jonathan and his government more time to ensure the safety of voters. Many people believe that Jonathan has not done enough to put down the insurgency and the most recent attack places more doubt on his ability to keep the citizens of his country safe. His opponent in the election, Muhammadu Buhari, is seen as having the better ability to deal with the uprising.
The conflict in Nigeria has also spilled over in to neighboring countries such as Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. An African Union coalition is beginning to plan an effort to stop Boko Haram from continuing its campaign in Nigeria. The suicide bombing strike at the bus stop in Nigeria has been yet another blow to a country already threatened by violence. Boko Haram warned voters not to show up to the polls on election day, and has now killed more innocent people in its campaign against democracy, which leaders in the Islamist organization say is un-Islamic.
By Kirstin Pinto