It’s hard to imagine that a terrorist group that has kidnapped thousands and was just recently accused of carrying out what could possibly be its worst massacre ever could get any more horrific. But it has. In an unprecedented move, Boko Haram appears to have used a girl as young as 10 as a suicide bomber in a crowded northern Nigerian market, killing as many as 20 people. The New York Times says it “represented a new tactic in the Islamists’ campaign with their decision to use perhaps their youngest-ever suicide bomber.”
“It’s a little girl,” a hospital official tells the Times. “The body is beyond recognition, but from the face you can see it’s a young person. A young pretty girl.”
Boko Haram has used women as suicide bombers in the past, but children had been largely off-limits. Although not entirely. In June of last year, which marked the first time Boko Haram used a female suicide bomber, a 10-year-old girl was found wearing a suicide vest, according to AFP. But this latest attack appears to be the first one that was successful.
Officials say it’s likely the girl had no idea what was going on and that the bomb was detonated remotely. “The girl was about 10 years old, and I doubt if she actually knew what was strapped to her body,” one witness tells AFP. The bomb reportedly went off as the girl was being searched to enter a crowded market in Maiduguri, and her small body was torn in two.
This suicide attack came shortly after Boko Haram carried out what Amnesty International describes as the “deadliest massacre” in the terrorist group’s history, perpetrated around Baga, a town along the border with Chad. There could be hundreds—and as many as 2,000—killed, mostly children and the elderly who couldn’t run away fast enough, reports the Guardian.