The Chibok girls were infamously taken by Boko Haram in 2014. That was the same year the group used a female suicide bomber for the first time. Writing for the BBC, Vladimir Hernandez and Stephanie Hegarty look at the group's practice of using suicide bombers—noting the militants far outpace any other group that uses females for this purpose. Elizabeth Pearson, who has authored a study on this very subject, backs the statement up with numbers: Through 2017, 454 women and girls attempted or carried out 232 bombings that took 1,225 lives. A jarring example among them: Two girls thought to be no more than 8 who bombed a Nigerian market in December 2016. But Hernandez and Hegarty's story largely revolves around a girl who survived: Falmata.
They describe a curious scene: her being made beautiful with "a deadly consequence." She says she was captured by Boko Haram at age 13 and offered two options: marriage or "mission." She opted for the latter, not knowing what it was. Indeed, as she was taken one day to have her curls straightened and her body decoratively stained with henna, she was unsure as to whether it was all part of marriage prep. Two days later she found out: A bomb was strapped to her waist. She decided to abandon the attack, but she was later captured by other Boko Haram members. At age 14, she went through the same process—a new dress, henna adornment. She once again asked strangers for help as soon as she could, speculating that farmers removed her bomb because they feared she'd blow them up if they didn't. Read the full story, which details her quest to find her family, here. (Read more Longform stories.)