West Africa leaders seek to ban full-face veil to prevent attacks

West African leaders said on Thursday they were seeking to forbid women wearing full-face veils in an effort to battle the growing number of female suicide bombers.

The president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, told reporters at the close of a two-day summit in Abuja that leaders must take measures that would forbid this kind of dress that will not allow security personnel to be sure of their identities.

As it loses swathes of territory to the Nigerian army, Boko Haram jihadists have in recent months started launching guerilla-style attacks, using young women and girls as suicide bombers by hiding explosives under their clothes. Boko Haram has used the tactic similarly in Cameroon, Chad and Niger — countries that have already enforced bans on veils earlier this year.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to end the Boko Haram insurgency by the end of this month, but the deadline looks likely to be missed as attacks persist. A vigilante civilian and four female suicide bombers were killed yesterday at a checkpoint in northeast Nigeria after one of them detonated her explosives.

A local official said that four girls between the ages of nine and 12 were stopped at the checkpoint, but the information was not confirmed by another source.