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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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