By Tom Wyke
Girls captured by Boko Haram in Nigeria are volunteering to become suicide bombers because they can no longer bear the sexual abuse and constant hunger they suffer as prisoners.
Many of the young women take the shocking decision as a last resort to try and escape the jihadi group, even if it costs them their lives.
Women who managed to escape Boko Haram have revealed that the young bombers don't believe in the radical ideology of the group but rather they want to run away from the nightmare conditions.
'Fati,' a survivor of Boko Haram, said that the militants turned up at her village, demanding to take the young girls to marry them off to their fighters. When the girls said they were too young, they were seized by force. She recalled the terrifying conditions inside the camps, which were regularly attacked by the Nigerian army, forcing the Islamists to move on a regular basis.
They would ask, 'Who wants to be a suicide bomber?' The girls would shout, 'me, me, me.' They were fighting to do the suicide bombings,' Fati told CNN.
Fati said that the militants turned up at her village, demanding to take the young girls to marry them off to their fighters. When the girls said they were too young, they were seized by force.
She said that some of the young girls living in Boko Haram's base in the Sambisa forest were from the large group of schoolgirls taken from Chibok.
Boko Haram child suicide bombings have surged 11-fold in West Africa over the last year, with children as young as 8, mostly girls, detonating bombs in schools and markets.
Across Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, over 2.7 million people mostly women and children have now fled the Boko Haram-related violence.
Suicide bombings have spread beyond Nigeria's borders, with an increasing number of deadly attacks carried out by children with explosives hidden under their clothes or in baskets.
'The use of children, especially girls, as so-called suicide bombers has become a defining and alarming feature of this conflict,' said Laurent Duvillier, regional spokesman for UNICEF.
'It's basically turning the children against their own communities by strapping bombs around their bodies,' he said.
There were 44 child suicide bombings in West Africa last year, up from four in 2014, UNICEF said, mostly in Cameroon and Nigeria.
Some young children probably do not know they are carrying explosives, which are often detonated remotely, Duvillier said.
Islamist Boko Haram's six-year campaign to set up an Islamic emirate in northeastern Nigeria has killed some 15,000 people, according to the U.S. military. Outmaneuvered after a regional offensive drove it from strongholds in Nigeria last year, it is increasingly using children to carry out attacks.
The tactic has proven effective in increasing the number of casualties as people do not usually see children as a threat.
Amnesty International estimates Boko Haram has kidnapped about 2,000 women and girls since 2014 for use as cooks, sex slaves, fighters and suicide bombers.
It is two years since the militants abducted some 270 Nigerian schoolgirls in Chibok, many of whom were forced to convert to Islam and marry their captors.
Three-quarters of the suicide bombers have been girls, UNICEF said, who are often were thought less likely to arouse suspicion, although that may be changing now.
Abducted boys are forced to attack their own families to demonstrate their loyalty to Boko Haram, it said.
Although many children are being released from captivity as the military reclaims territory from Boko Haram, they often face stigma and rejection.
'Some women would beat me,' 17-year-old Khadija, who lives in a camp for displaced people in Nigeria, told UNICEF.
She and her baby, born of rape, escaped captivity during a Nigerian army attack on Boko Haram.
'They said: 'You are a Boko Haram wife, don't come near us!'' she told UNICEF.
Children are the main victims in one of Africa's fastest growing humanitarian crises, UNICEF said, making up the majority of the 2.3 million people displaced since mid-2013.
Those separated from their families by the conflict and out of school are vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups, Duvillier said.
Almost one million Nigerian children are missing out on education as Boko Haram has destroyed more than 900 schools and killed more than 600 teachers, Human Rights Watch said.
'Boko Haram is robbing an entire generation of children in northeast Nigeria of their education,' Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.