The Islamist militant group Boko Haram operating mostly in north-east Nigeria and northern Cameroon, has deployed more female suicide bombers than any other insurgency in history, says a new report by researchers at West Point – a top US military academy.
The report says more than 400 attacks have been carried out since 2011, mainly in north-east Nigeria but also in neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. And in over half the cases, women or girls were used as the bombers.
The report contrasts this with the Tamil Tigers, who were fighting for Tamil rights in Sri Lanka, who used 44 female suicide bombers in over 10 years.
This year alone more than 80 females, many of them girls, were deployed as suicide attackers by Boko Haram.
Part of the reason was that women, and girls in particular, aroused less suspicion than men.
They frequently strike soft targets such as markets, mosques and makeshift camps where people are sheltering from the violence.
But the report also suggests that Boko Haram came to realise that using women could help raise its global profile.
Overall the study estimates that about 2,000 people have been killed by suicide attacks.