Tag Archives: Borno

Week of Attacks in Nigeria Demonstrate Boko Haram’s Increasing Capabilities

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Over the past week, Nigeria has seen nearly daily attacks throughout the entire country, including the third attack in Abuja in ten weeks. With Boko Haram militants suspected to be behind the latest deadly violence, many are warning that these latest attacks now demonstrate that the militant group is capable of carrying out attacks across the country at any time.

Third Attack in Abuja

On Wednesday 25 June, Nigeria’s national rescue agency reported that a loud explosion hit a crowded shopping center in the Wuse district of Nigeria’s capital Abuja, killing twenty-four people and wounding at least seventeen. A statement released by Manzo Ezekie, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) indicated “we received the information at about 4:00 PM (1500 GMT) about a blast” at the Emab Plaza, which is located not far from the seat of government. The statement further indicated that a “rescue operation has already commenced.” Nigerian authorities have arrested one suspect and that a second suspect was shot dead by troops as he attempted to escape on a motorbike. Although Boko Haram has not made any official confirmations pertaining to this attack, the militant group is suspected of carrying it out.

Although Boko Haram’s attacks have mostly targeted the northeastern regions of the country, over the past ten weeks, the militant group has attacked the capital twice. On 14 April more than seventy people were killed in a bomb blast at a bus stop on the outskirts of the capital city while the following month, a car bomb near a bus station in the suburbs killed at least nineteen people and injured sixty others.

Days after the bomb attack, Nigeria’s intelligence agency reported that over the past two weeks, it had been warning shopping complexes in Abuja that Islamic extremists may target them.

According to Marily Ogar, spokeswoman for the Department of State Security, Nigerian intelligence officials had received information that Boko Haram extremists were planning such an attack, adding “about two weeks ago we heard information that they were planning an attack at a busy shopping mall or market…and so we had to go from one shopping complex to another trying to tell people to be more aware.” Although the state department did not publish the intelligence reports on the threat to shopping malls, in an apparent attempt to avoid wide panic, last week the government warned that it had received information that Boko Haram was planning to hijack petrol tankers in the capital and to plant explosives inside.

Emab Plaza, where the attack occurred Wednesday, is the biggest and busiest shopping center in Abuja. The explosion occurred around rush hour as many residents were hurrying to view Nigeria’s football team play against Argentina at the World Cup in Brazil. While it remains unclear if the bomb was timed to coincide with that, Boko Haram has in the past bombed several football viewing venues, prompting two northeastern states to ban public events to watch the football tournament.

On the ground sources have reported that the increased security throughout the city may have prevented the attack from killing even more as witnesses reported that a security guard had stopped a car bomber from entering the mall just moments before the massive explosion on Wednesday.

Continued Attacks in Northern Nigeria

Days after an attack targeted a shopping center in Abuja, an explosion in the northern city of Bauchi has killed at least ten people and injured fourteen others.

Bauchi state police spokesman Mohammed Haruna confirmed Saturday that the targeted building in the Bayan Gari neighborhood, which is located on the outskirts of the city, was widely known as a brothel. He further indicated “ten people were confirmed dead, while 14 others sustained various degrees of injury,” adding that the explosion went off at roughly 10:00 PM (2100 GMT). Police officers have cordoned off the entire area and an investigation into the attack is ongoing.

Bomb attacks on targets, which Boko Haram has branded sinful, including churches, bars and schools teaching a Western curriculum, have formed a major part of the militant group’s insurgency. Nigerian officials estimate that more than 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 2009. In recent months, the violence has escalated with more than 3,000 deaths recorded since the start of this year.

Suspected Boko Haram militants, armed with explosives, attacked a number of churches on Sunday near Chibok, the northeastern town where more than 200 teenage girls were kidnapped nearly three months ago.

Residents have indicated that gunmen riding on motorcycles opened fire on worshippers and pursued them as they tried to flee into the bush. The attackers also threw explosives into churches as services were on going and torched several buildings. Dozens of people are reported to have been killed in the raids on villages located roughly 10 kilometers (6 miles) outside Chibok, however no one has been able to provide an official death toll. The targeted villages have been identified as Kwada, Ngurojina, Karagau and Kautikari. All are located in Borno state, which is the stronghold of the Militant group. Another resident reported “the attackers went to churches with bombs and guns,” adding “from what I gathered, dozens of worshippers, including men, women and children were killed.” Several residents in the area also reported that the Nigerian military had not responded to distress calls, which were sent out shortly after the attack began. While these reports have not been verified, if confirmed, it will likely raise further questions about the military’s efforts in the northeastern region of Nigeria, which is the epicenter of the insurgency.

Last week’s incidents throughout the country have effectively cemented the fact that Boko Haram militants are now capable of carrying out attacks anywhere in Nigeria, sparking fears that the militant group is now seeking to expand its insurgency, moving further south towards Abuja. The attacks have also demonstrated the Nigerian government and military’s inability to coordinate received intelligence and thwart attacks.

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President Goodluck Jonathan Cancels Trip to Chibok

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Despite announcing earlier this week that he would visit the town where more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed Friday that that he has cancelled his trip to Chibok, a move that is likely to anger the Nigerian public and further derail his potential re-election bid.

Sources earlier this week indicated that President Goodluck Jonathan would stop in Chibok, located in north-eastern Nigeria, while on his way to a conference in France, which is set to focus on the on going threat from Boko Haram militants.  However on Friday, a senior government official indicated that the president, who is under pressure over his government’s failure to rescue the girls, will fly directly to Paris, citing that the visit was called off for security reasons.  The president will take part in a summit in Paris convened by French President Francois Hollande.  The leaders of Nigeria’s neighbours, including Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, are also scheduled to attend the summit on Saturday, which will also include representatives from the EU, UK and US.  A statement released by the French President’s office indicated that the delegates will “discuss fresh strategies for dealing with the security threat posed by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in west and central Africa.”  The cancellation of this visit also underlines just how fragile the security situation is in the north-east despite the on-going military operations, which were launched last May.  It is also likely to result in further criticism of the president.

The cancellation of the President’s visit to Chibok comes days after the Nigerian government ruled out negotiations with Boko Haram, over a possible release of prisoners.  At a meeting on Wednesday, UK Africa Minister Mark Simmonds indicated that President Jonathan had “made it very clear that there will be no negotiation.”

State of Emergency Extended

On Thursday, the lower house of Nigeria’s parliament, the House of Representatives, approved an extension of the state of emergency in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.  Earlier this week, President Jonathan had requested a six-month extension, calling the security situation in the region “daunting” and stating that he was concerned by the mounting loss of life among civilians.  The state of emergency, which still needs to be approved by the Senate, effectively provides the military with widespread powers such as detaining suspects, imposing curfews and setting up roadblocks.

The announcement of the extension of the state of emergency came as reports of fresh attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants emerged on Thursday.  Witnesses have reported that there had been explosions in Gamboru Ngala, where some 300 people were killed last week in a massacre that has been blamed on Boko Haram militants.

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Nigeria Ready to Hold Talks with Boko Haram

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Despite previously indicating that the Nigerian government would not negotiate with Boko Haram militants, on Tuesday, cabinet minister Tanimu Turaki stated that Nigeria is ready to talk to the Islamist militants in a bid to release the more than 200 schoolgirls who were abducted one month ago.  The decision comes just one day after a video of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was released.  In the 27-minute video, Shekau states that captured girls who had not converted to Islam could be swapped for jailed fighters.

As the schoolgirls begin their second month in captivity, Nigeria’s cabinet minister Tanimu Turaki, who is the special duties minister and chairman of a committee established by President Goodluck Jonathan and tasked with finding ways of reaching an agreement with Boko Haram, stated Tuesday that if Shekau was sincere, he should send people he trusted to meet the standing committee on reconciliation.  He has added, “dialogue is a key option” in bringing the crisis to an end and that “an issue of this nature can be resolved outside of violence.”

Tuesday’s announcement by the government’s cabinet minister demonstrates that the Nigerian government appears to be changing its stance in relation to dialogue with the militant group.  The Nigerian government had initially suggested that there would be no negotiations with Boko Haram, however with increasing national and international pressure to locate the girls, who are believed to have been split up into smaller groups, it appears that the government is now looking at all the options in a bid to secure their release.

In terms of a possible prisoner swap, such arrangements have been organized before.  In July 2013, one of the wives of Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau was released, along with the wives of other top commanders.  Nigerian authorities have jailed several commanders, thousands of alleged fighters as well as wives and children fighters, all of which could be used to negotiate the release of the girls.

On Monday, a new Boko Haram video emerged, showing about 130 of the girls wearing hijabs and reciting Koranic verses.  The governor of northeastern Borno state, Kashim Shettima, has indicated that those seen in the 27-minute video have been identified as the abducted schoolgirls from Chibok Secondary School.

While the more than 200 schoolgirls on Wednesday began their second month as Boko Haram hostages, lawmakers in Abuja are set to debate a request from President Goodluck Jonathan for a six-month extension to a state of emergency, which was first imposed in three northeastern states exactly one year ago.   Given the apparent lack of progress in curbing the violence, after the state of emergency was imposed on 14 May 2013, President Jonathan is currently facing calls to explore a negotiated settlement.  Despite initial gains from a surge of troops in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, tighter security along with measures including curfews and cutting the mobile phone networks appear to have been lost.  Attacks have increased in the rural areas of the northeast, resulting in mounting civilian casualties.  This year alone more than 1,500 civilians are estimated to have been killed.  The Nigerian government has now been urged to improve its counter-insurgency tactics, including an increase in the use of intelligence, instead of just conventional means to defeat the militant fighters.  Sources have also indicated that the head of the US Africa Command, General David Rodriguez, met with Nigeria’s top brass in Abuja on Monday in order to discuss the search as well as the overall military cooperation.







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Twin Blasts Rock Nigerian Capital

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Twin blasts at a packed bus station in Nigeria’s capital on Monday have killed more than seventy people.

Officials reported Monday that more than seventy people have been killed in two blasts that were carried out in crowded bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.  Abbas Idris, head of the Abuja Emergency Relief Agency, has stated that so far officials have confirmed 71 people dead and 124 injured, however these numbers are likely to rise in the coming days.   The cause of the explosions, which occurred at the Nyanya Bus Park roughly 5 kilometres (three miles) south of Abuja, was not immediately clear however security officials at the scene are currently working to determine the cause of the explosions.  For now, they are suspecting that the explosion occurred inside a vehicle.  While no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, officials in Abuja believe Boko Haram militants are likely behind it.

The incident occurred as commuters were about to board buses and taxis to go to work in central Abuja.  The blast ripped a hole four feet deep (1.2 metres) in the ground of Nyanya Motor Park and destroyed more than thirty vehicles, causing secondary explosions as their fuel tanks ignited and burned.

The capital city been previously attacked by Boko Haram insurgents.  In 2011, it carried out a suicide bombing at a United Nations building in Abuja, killing at least 26 six peoples.  The incident has been one of the group’s most prominent attacks.  More recently however, the group’s violence has been concentrated in the remote north eastern region of the country.  If Monday’s attack is confirmed by Boko Haram, the attack on the outskirts of Abuja would cast further doubt on the military’s claims that the insurgents have been weakened and lack the capacity to strike prominent targets.

This year, Boko Haram militants have killed more than 1,500 civilians in three states in north eastern Nigeria.  Although the Nigerian government launched a military operation in May last year, aimed at ending the near four year insurgency, since then, the militants have been pushed out of the major city centres in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa and have relocated into the villages and surrounding areas where they have continued to carry out violent attacks.  They have also been suspected of crossing the porous borders between Nigeria and Cameroon, where they have taken shelter from the on going military operations and where they have carried out attacks.


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Nigeria’s Launches Second Cellphone Blackout Amidst an Increase of Boko Haram Attacks

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On Wednesday, officials in Nigeria re-imposed a telephone blackout on a number of areas within the country’s north-eastern Borno state, the base of Boko Haram militants who have over the past few months intensified their attacks, which have claimed scores of lives.

According to army spokesman Colonel Muhammad Dole, “GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) services have been seized in Borno again and this is one of the sacrifices that people have to make,” adding that “there is an on going operation and we want to get it right.  We are hopeful GSM services would be restored.”  Although no further details were provided, Col. Dole noted “in the on going operation we have reached a stage whereby the cooperation of everybody is necessary in order to subdue the common enemy.”  Residents confirmed the cell phone black out, with most people waking up on Wednesday and finding that they could not longer make calls on their mobiles.  Some residents in Maiduguri, Borno’s state capital, indicated Wednesday that if the phone blackout would restore law and order, then they backed the move, however some are doubting whether or not the military would achieve this desire goal.  One local resident stated “when they seized the GSM network last year, the terrorists were not perturbed, they kept killing people.  GSM services were only restored when the terrorists attacked military bases in December.”

Phone services were initially frozen last May until December in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe after the government imposed a state of emergency.

While speaking to reporters, Col. Dole also thanked the youth vigilantes, also known as civilian JTF (Joint Task Force) for their “unprecedented support to the military” in the on-going offensive against Islamists.

Despite an enhanced military presence in the northern region of Nigeria, since last May, more than 1,000 people have been killed.   Violence by Boko Haram militants have been raging in Nigeria since 2009, and has claimed thousands of lives however in recent weeks, the militant group’s campaign has been particularly ferocious, with some 500 people killed in suspected Islamist attacks since the start of the year.  Worst hit by the attacks are villages in remote and rural areas near Borno’s border with Cameroon.

Meanwhile officials and eyewitnesses in Katsina have reported that at least sixty-nine people have been killed in attacks on villages located in the northwestern state.  Reports have indicated that the attacks occurred Wednesday.

Witnesses reported Thursday that attackers rode motorcycles into villages in broad daylight and killed whomever they found.   While this attacks is just the latest incident to hit northern Nigeria, police officials in the state have indicated that the attack is not linked to Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which is mainly active further east in Borno, but instead appears to have been carried out by ethnic Fulani cattle herders who have a history of tension with local farmers.  According to state police chief Hurdi Mohammed, “the victims include men, women and children.  Rescue teams are still combing nearby bushes to search for more bodies.  Local MP Abdullahi Abbas Machika indicated that forty-seven people were buried in one village alone in Katsina state after Wednesday’s attack.

The attack in Katsina state comes as President Goodluck Jonathan visits the state to commission some government projects.

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