Boko Haram Increases Tempo of Attacks in Wake of Ceasefire ClaimsDecember 2, 2014 in Nigeria
Boko Haram has been carrying out attacks with increased frequency and deadliness since the Nigerian military declared in October that the insurgents had agreed to a ceasefire. The recent wave of attacks across northern Nigeria have demonstrated the terrorist group’s continued abilities to strike at will in the region despite a state of emergency that was put in place to curb the group’s five year insurgency.
The most recent attacks attributed to Boko Haram occurred Monday in the northeastern state capitals of Damaturu and Maiduguri. At least five people were killed and 32 wounded when twin blasts targeted a crowded market in Maiduguri. The latest attack in the Borno state capital comes nearly a week after two female suicide bombers attacked the same market on 25 November, killing 78 people. Several witnesses reported Monday that two female bombers were responsible for the attacks. A separate attack in Damaturu, the capital of neighbouring Yobe state, began shortly after 05:00 local time (0400 GMT), with militants setting fire to a riot police base, and later attacking a primary school and the city’s university. On the ground sources reported that Boko Haram fighters, who have obtained most of their weapons by seizing them from the Nigerian army, appeared to be trying to gain access to military equipment stockpiled in the city.
Monday’s attacks on the two state capitals appear to be a continued acceleration of extremist violence in northeastern Nigeria, which in recent weeks has seen insurgents staging attacks on an almost daily basis. Over the past two weeks, attacks linked to Boko Haram have killed at least 220 people, with some experts indicating that the number is likely closer to 300. On Friday, at least 120 people were killed after three explosions occurred during prayer hours at one of the largest mosques in the city of Kano. Security officials believe that the Grand Mosque in Kano may have been targeted after one of Nigeria’s top Islamic leaders recently issued a call to arms to fight Boko Haram. On Thursday, at least forty people were killed after a bomb exploded at a bus station in Mubi, the second largest city in Adamawa state. While some of these attacks have yet to be claimed, Boko Haram is widely suspected to be responsible.
Boko Haram’s attacks and the recent seizure of several towns in northeastern Nigeria have killed thousands of civilians and forced many to flee, resulting in a massive displacement that is creating a humanitarian crisis in Africa’s most populous nation, and in neighbouring states. According to a report released by Human Rights Watch earlier this year, from January to June 2014, Boko Haram attacks killed at least 2,053 people. The recent escalation of attacks has also caused thousands to flee, with many seeking shelter elsewhere in Nigeria, or opting to cross the border in neighbouring Cameroon or Niger.
Earlier this month, the militant group seized a town in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state, killing nearly fifty people and forcing at least 3,000 people to flee to Niger. According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, since May 2013, at least 100,000 people have fled to Niger. Last month, Boko Haram seized control of the town of Mubi, in Adamawa state. That attack forced at least 13,000 people to flee to Cameroon. Continued violent attacks will only worsen the already fragile humanitarian situation in both Nigeria and in neighbouring states.
Boko Haram’s expanding threat and recent cross-border raids in Cameroon have demonstrated the militant group’s desires to expand their operations. Fears that Boko Haram fighters may soon target neighbouring states have prompted officials in Niger and Cameroon to close schools and health centres located along the borders with northern Nigeria over fears of attacks carried out by the Islamist group. Many civilians living in towns close to the porous border have opted to leave, seeking safety elsewhere.
The Nigerian government’s state of emergency, which was imposed in May 2013, has done little to curb the violence. The recent denial of a third extension of the emergency rule demonstrated that Nigerian MP’s, like Nigerian civilians, are becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation. The Nigerian government’s security strategy now remains uncertain while the tempo of Boko Haram attacks is likely to increase over the month of December as the holiday season approaches.