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UNICEF Reports Rise in Use of 'Human Bombs' by Boko Haram

FILE - People clear debris after an explosion in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Oct. 29, 2016. Twin explosions from female suicide bombers suspected to be with Boko Haram killed nine people and injured more than 20 in Maiduguri.

The U.N. children’s fund reports an alarming increase in the use of so-called "human bombs" by Boko Haram insurgents in northeast Nigeria.

UNICEF reports a four-fold increase over all of last year in the number of children, especially girls, being used as so-called "human bombs" by Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says 83 children were forced to go on suicide missions. She says 55 of the children were girls under the age of 15, 27 were boys, and one was an infant strapped to a girl.

She says the consequences for all children are terrible. Because of their role as human bombs, she tells VOA children are widely viewed with suspicion.

“There is an extraordinary level of tension obviously in these communities and... people are afraid of children who have been victimized in this absolutely appalling way," she said. "There are instances of children being ostracized by their communities and worse. Like terrible things are happening to children after already horrific things have happened to them.”

UNICEF calls the use of children as human bombs an atrocity and says they are above all victims and not perpetrators. It says rejecting children who have been released by Boko Haram or have escaped simply compounds their suffering.

The agency notes most of the attacks are on so-called soft targets, such as markets, schools, universities and displacement camps. And, most take place in Borno State.