RESEARCHED: Boko Haram has bombed more Islamic than Christian institutions



Despite its standing as an Islamic fundamentalist group, Boko Haram has bombed more Islamic than Christian institutions, a study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, United States Military Academy, has revealed.

The study, carried out by Jason Warner and Hilary Matfess, also showed that from April 11, 2011 to June 30, 2017, Boko Haram deployed 434 bombers to 247 different targets during 238 suicide-bombing attacks, with at least 56% of these bombers being women.

The researchers explained that Boko Harm used more women as bombers because women are unlikely to be searched by security agents, bombs are easy to conceal under the women’s conservative clothing, and the terror would rather dispense women as suicide bombers than male fighters who could engage the security agents in gun battle.

The study found that the female suicide bombers targeted mostly vulnerable civilian population and most likely to fail in carrying out the attacks than the male counterparts.

“Whereas men tend to target mostly Christian and governmental institutions, women are far more prone to target civilian locations,” said the report.

“We underline the fact that men and women appear to be equally effective at killing when they detonate, though women are noted for detonating less often than their male counterparts.”

The study analysed all Boko Haram suicide bombings from their first deployment in April 2011 to June 2017 and found that most of the terror group’s suicide bombers often failed.

It points out that Boko Haram’s use of suicide bombing accounts for roughly 15% of its total attacks, which resulted in a total of 2,283 total suicide bombing-related deaths.

According to the study, suicide attacks constitute only 21.5% of Boko Haram’s overall death toll, indicating that Boko Haram had been less effective in the use of suicide bombings to cause mass casualties than other terror groups.

“Though Boko Haram is deploying suicide bombers at a rate surprising for a Sub-Saharan African insurgency, these attacks do not constitute a major source of Boko Haram’s lethality,” the researchers said.

“When it comes to its largest suicide-bombing attacks, Boko Haram seems to have no discernible pattern regarding date, target, or nature of bomber. Importantly, we find that Boko Haram suicide bombers often fail.

“They often do not detonate, and when they do, they kill and injure fewer individuals per detonation than other groups that use suicide bombers. We also find that Boko Haram’s use of coordinated, multiple-person suicide bombings is especially ineffective.”

The study also discovered that Boko Haram bombers have tended to be most active in June and July, while most inactive in the following months.

It revealed that the terror group attacked more often on Sundays than other days of the week, probably because Sundays are usually market days, which the Boko Haram target for suicide bombing.

Contrary to general perception, Boko Haram carried out more attacks on Muslims than Christians.

“Despite the frequent characterisation of the crisis in the northeast as motivated by religion, our data shows that Boko Haram does not primarily target religious institutions,” the researchers said.

“Of the 247 suicide attack targets, just 49 were religious institutions, or 19.8% of total suicide attacks. Moreover, among Boko Haram’s suicide bombing attacks on religious targets, Islamic religious institutions were targeted more frequently than Christian institutions. From April 2011 to May 2017, 12 churches were targeted (4.9% of all targets) as compared to 37 mosques and religious Islamic leaders (comprising 14.9% of targets).”

The researchers warned that Boko Haram is at the forefront of normalizing the use of children as suicide bombers, especially female children and teenagers.

It pointed out that Boko Haram’s child suicide bombers, which have tended to target markets and bus stops, have been surprisingly effective, outstripping the casualty rate of their adult counterparts.

The researchers identified four phases in the development of Boko Haram’s suicide bombings.

“The first phase was a “learning phase” (April 8, 2011, to May 12, 2013) during which the group first began to use suicide bombers, deploying exclusively men, generally to governmental targets, while it developed operational capabilities unique to its fight.



    “The second phase was a “dormant phase” (May 13, 2013, to April 14, 2014), during which time Boko Haram’s pace of suicide bombing slowed considerably due to the declared state of emergency and effective counter-terrorism efforts by the state.

    “The third phase was the ‘unexpected bomber phase’ (April 15, 2014 to December 31, 2015), during which time Boko Haram recognized the strategic utility of using new demographics of women and children as bombers, leading to an increase in civilian targeting and resulting in its most lethal and injurious period.

    “Finally, we suggest that the group is currently in the fourth ‘incremental innovation phase’ (January 1, 2016 to today); having been stymied in its efforts within north-eastern Nigeria, Boko Haram appears to be doubling down on its use of women and children to target new locations, including internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.”

    The researchers concluded that the world will need to prepare for an inevitable fifth phase of Boko in the Haram’s deployment of suicide bombings as operational tactics.

    Chikezie can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @KezieOmeje

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