Young women behind wave of suicide bombings in Kano, Nigeria
Nigerian city of Kano has seen series of suicide bombings involving young females, in what may signal new line of attack by Boko Haram
Wearing long hijabs, the anonymous women squeeze quietly into crowds, barely noticed.
One slipped in among students gathered on Wednesday at a college campus in the northern Nigerian city of Kano. She detonated a hidden bomb, killing herself and at least five others.
On Sunday, a 15-year-old female suicide bomber blew herself up near a temporary university site, with no other casualties. Another pushed into a queue of women buying kerosene at a fuel station on Monday, detonating a bomb that killed herself and at least three others.
Hours later, an 18-year-old woman approached a shopping mall and detonated a bomb. She killed only herself.
No group has claimed responsibility for the rash of daily attacks in Kano, but analysts say they bear the marks of Islamist extremists Boko Haram.
Police in adjacent Kastina state arrested a 10-year-old girl wearing a suicide vest on Tuesday, government spokesman Mike Omeri said on Wednesday.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the use of female suicide bombers was "a new low in the inhuman campaign" of Boko Haram, and was "wicked exploitation" of girls, according to a statement released on Monday.
"The president describes as shocking, callous and reprehensible the multiple bomb blasts that occurred in Kano within 24 hours, and the unrelenting attacks by the Boko Haram at a time the Muslim faithful are observing the holy festival of Eid ul-Fitr" ending the holy month of Ramadan, the statement said.
Female suicide bombings have been relatively rare in the insurgency led by Boko Haram, which in April abducted nearly 300 girls from a school outside the town of Chibok. Boko Haram has said many of the girls had converted to its violent brand of fundamentalist Islam, raising fears that they had been persuaded to take on the mission of suicide bombers. No such evidence has surfaced, however.
Nigeria's social media have nonetheless swirled with such fears in recent days.
"Kano again and again. Female suicide bombers again and again - becoming trend. Our #ChibokGirls still in the enemy den. Are we THINKING," tweeted the leader of a campaign for the girls' rescue, former education minister Oby Ezekwesili.
"I just pray its not these chibok girl they r forcing into suicide bombing. All bombers were 16 to 17 years," tweeted Asaba Gamawa with the handle Asaba88. Other Nigerians said the female bombings underscored the need to rescue the Chibok girls, 219 of whom remain with the rebels.
Boko Haram is fighting for an Islamic caliphate across Nigeria, a country of 170 million divided between Christians and Muslims. The group bitterly opposes the Nigerian government and all aspects of Western culture.