W. African leaders seek ban on full-face veil to prevent attacks

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Source: Yahoo News

Abuja (AFP) – West African leaders said Thursday they were seeking to “forbid” women wearing full-face veils in an effort to curb the growing number of female suicide bombers unleashed by Boko Haram jihadists.

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.”

Losing swathes of territory to the Nigerian army, Boko Haram jihadists have since July started using young women and girls as suicide bombers by hiding explosives in their loose-fitting clothes.

The radical Sunni group has also used the tactic in Cameroon, Chad and Niger — countries that have already enforced bans on veils this year.

The region is reeling from a spike in female suicide bombings as a weakened Boko Haram shifts its strategy from raiding villages to relying on explosives in its quest to overthrow the government and create a hardline Islamist state in northeast Nigeria.

“Certain dress codes, which make identification of the persons concerned difficult, may considerably hinder actions geared towards protecting people and properties,” said Ouedraogo, who said countries should enforce a ban “in line with their national realities.”

– Forced to become human bombs? –

Almost a third of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims live in Africa, with the religion predominant in the northern half of the continent.

In May this year, the Republic of Congo became one of the first African countries to issue a ban, followed by Chad and Cameroon after multiple female suicide bombers, wearing full face veils killed and maimed scores of people.

Authorities in Cameroon even went so far as to say it had banned “the manufacturing, sale and wearing of the burqa”.

But despite facing criticism that the bans infringe upon religious freedom, African leaders increasingly say national security trumps personal liberties.

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