A small girl, used by the terrorist group Boko Haram, blew herself up in the middle of a crowded park in northern Cameroon, killing at least 15 people, according to reports.
The suicide bomber blew herself up in a public park in the town of Mozogo in the Mayo-Tsanaga area of Cameroon on Friday. Five children between the ages of three to 14 were among the victims, according to UNICEF.
Before the explosion, Boko Haram men entered the town and shot sporadically throughout the area, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern said. Many villagers ran to the park to hide, not knowing that Boko Haram had a girl wearing a suicide vest inside the park.
“I continue to be deeply concerned about the increasing number of attacks against civilians in the Far North, North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement. “The rise in violence has exacerbated a national humanitarian crisis and there are now an estimated 3.2 million children in need across the country.”
It is unclear if the young girl voluntarily blew herself up or was forced by Boko Haram.
“Based in Nigeria near the Cameroonian border, Boko Haram terrorists regularly attack civilians and military posts in northern Cameroon,” Fore noted.
ICC added, “Despite all four of these nations working together as a coalition, they have been unable to quell the rise of Boko Haram,” warning that the group that had its peak in 2015, but lost much of it in 2016 and 2017, “has been re-growing.”
Throughout the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions in Cameroon, some farming communities are supportive of rebel groups that began fighting for independence in 2017 because they feel underrepresented by the French-speaking central government.
Over the last few years, fighting has spread across the Anglophone regions with thousands being killed and some churches seized.
Last April, authorities in Cameroon admitted that soldiers were involved in the killing of three women and 10 children in a mid-February attack in the Northwest province in which 21 people were killed and several homes were pillaged.
After initially claiming that allegations of soldiers being complicit in the massacre in Ngarbuh village on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14 were false, the Cameroonian government announced that three soldiers were on trial for their role in the killing of innocent civilians and burning of homes in the majority Christian Anglophone region.
The government released the findings of a joint commission of inquiry investigation launched following reports that soldiers teamed up with Fulani militants in a night-time attack that was said to have claimed the lives of at least 13 children and one pregnant woman.
Last year, Cameroon was added to Open Doors USA’s annual World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians were most persecuted.
Cameroon is also on the list of 2020’s worst human rights abusers, according to human rights group U.N. Watch. Cameroon tortured journalist Samuel Abuwe to death, massacred schoolchildren, and threatened political opponents, the list noted.