JOHANNESBURG – Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that has kidnapped schoolgirls and turned northeastern Nigeria into a war zone, has a female recruitment wing, Nigerian defense officials said Friday as they released photographs of three women alleged to be members of the group.
Nigeria’s military headquarters said in Twitter message that three women had been arrested on suspicion of enticing women and girls to join the terrorist group. It said they were promising women husbands, mainly Boko Haram fighters, if they joined.
Boko Haram has been waging an insurgency for more than a decade in its effort to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, a nation deeply divided between the mainly Islamic north and predominantly Christian south. The group opposes secular education, democracy, taxation, banking and all aspects of Western culture.
In photos released by the military, a woman in a blue hijab identified as Aisha Abubakar cradled prayer beads in her hands. She and two other suspects, Hafsat Usman Bako and Zainab Idris, were arrested traveling to Madagali, south of the city of Maiduguri, the Defense Ministry said.
The arrests follow a suicide bombing by a woman near a military barracks in the city of Gombe last month. The attacker killed herself and a soldier.
According to defense officials, the three arrested women were planning to go to the forest outside Madagali to meet up with members of Boko Haram.
“Investigations reveal that the suspects, led by Hafsat Bako, have the mission to recruit members into the female wing as well as conduct espionage for the group,” a ministry statement said. It said Bako was the widow of a Boko Haram fighter.