On Tuesday, partial results from Nigeria’s elections give opposition leader General Muhammadu Buhari a narrow lead over the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, however Mr Jonathan’s strongholds are yet to report final numbers and the final result of the polls is too close to call.
As of mid-Tuesday, just over half of Nigeria’s thirty-six states have declared returns in the vote. A number of the northern states, where Gen Buhari is seen as favourite, still have to declare. Results so far: from 25 states and Abuja (note: candidates need 25% in 24 states for first-round victory)
General Buhari: 10,454,137 votes; passed 25% threshold in 16 states
Mr Jonathan: 9,953,432 votes; passed 25% threshold in 20 states
This is Gen Buhari’s forth run at the presidency, with his prospects drastically increasing over growing frustration and criticism of Jonathan’s handling of Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency.
As was expected, Gen Buhari swept the northern states of Kano and Kaduna however the number of votes he received crushed expectations and have dealt a major defeat to Mr Jonathan. In Kano, which is the state with the second-largest number of voters, Gen Buhari won 1.9 million votes while Mr Jonathan received 216,000. In Kaduna, Gen Buhari won 1.1 million votes to Mr Jonathan’s 484,000. Gen Buhari also won the southern state of Lagos while Mr Jonathan won a large majority in his home state of Bayelsa. While by Monday evening, Gen Buhari was leading by two million votes, this lead was significantly cut after Mr Jonathan gained a landslide victory in Rivers State, where there have been widespread reports of irregularities which have resulted in local officials imposing an overnight curfew in an attempt to prevent any violence from erupting. On Tuesday, electoral commission chairman Attahiru Jega disclosed that a fact-finding team deployed to the state had found there were some voting irregularities with the poll but not enough in order “to warrant a cancellation of the election.”
Counting of the votes in Abuja is being carried out in the presence of party representatives as well as the media and national and international observers. The winner of the 2015 presidential elections is expected to be announced at the end of Tuesday. A victory for Gen Buhari will effectively make Mr Jonathan the first incumbent to lose an election in Nigeria.
Reports emerged Friday that many people have been killed in three explosions that occurred during Friday prayers at one of the largest mosques in the Nigerian city of Kano. The attacks come a week after one of Nigeria’s top Islamic leaders issued a call to arms to fight Boko Haram.
According to on the ground sources, the Grand Mosque in Kano was targeted Friday by suspected Boko Haram militants. The blasts occurred as Friday prayers had got under way at about 2:00 PM (1300 GMT). According to one local, “two bombs exploded, one after the other, in the premises of the Grand Mosque seconds after the prayers had started,” adding “a third one went off in a nearby road close to the Qadiriyya Sufi order. The blasts were followed by gunshots by the police to scare off potential attacks.” Eyewitnesses have reported that at least fifty people were killed in the attack, however officials have not released any official figures. National police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu confirmed that an attack had occurred in Kano however he noted that he was waiting for a briefing from officers at the scene and declined to comment further.
While Boko Haram has in the past targeted the city, which is the largest in northern Nigeria, several times during its five-year insurgency, most of its attacks have occurred in the eastern areas of the city.
The Grand Mosque is attached to the palace of the Emir of Kano, Nigeria’s second most senior Muslim cleric. The Grand Mosque is also where the influential Muslim leader usually leads prayers. The Emir, Muhammed Sanusi II, is currently in Saudi Arabia. Sources have reported that he arrived in Saudi Arabia late on Thursday night from Paris. Some have indicated that Friday’s attack on the Grand Mosque may be the result of comments made by the Emir last week in which he stated that northerners should take up arms against Boko Haram. In what are rare public comments by a cleric pertaining to political and military affairs, the Emir also cast doubts on the ability of Nigeria’s army to protect civilians and to end the five-year insurgency.
Friday’s explosions come after civilian vigilantes in the northeastern city of Maiduguri revealed that they had foiled a bomb attack against a mosque just five days after two female suicide bombers killed over forty-five people in the city. Civilian vigilantes have disclosed that they discovered a suspected remote-controlled device that was planted in the Gamboru Market area of the city. Sources have indicated that while the bomb was successfully diffused by the police bomb squad another bomb near the area exploded. There were no casualties and the area has since been cordoned off. Locals have reported that the bombs were likely planted ahead of Friday’s prayers, as there is a mosque located nearby. Many suspect Boko Haram militants to be behind this incident, which also come just days after several arrests were made. If Boko Haram confirms this incident, then it would demonstrate that it is evolving its tactics, as the use of concealed roadside bombs is not typically a method that the group has used. In the past, Boko Haram has used direct hit-and-run tactics, car bombs and suicide attacks to carry out its deadly campaign of creating an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria.
In what appears to be a new tactic that is being deployed by Boko Haram, over the past few days four female suicide bombers have carried out a series of attacks in Nigeria’s second largest city.
On Wednesday, a female suicide bomber killed six people at a college campus in the city of Kano. According to eyewitnesses, at about 2:30PM (1330 GMT), an assailant blew herself up at a noticeboard on the campus of the Kano Polytechnic College. Government spokesman Mike Omeri confirmed the attack, disclosing that six people were killed and six others were injured. He also confirmed that a female suicide bomber, whose age was not immediately known, was responsible for the attack.
This is the fourth incident of a female bomber carrying out an attack in northern Nigeria in the past several days. On Sunday, a young woman injured five police officers after she blew herself up at another campus in the city. The following day, two young women, believed to be in their late teens or early 20’s, separately attacked a petrol station and a shopping centre. The two attacks killed at least three people and injured thirteen others.
The latest violence also comes as the government announced Wednesday that security officials arrested a 10-year-old girl who had explosives strapped to her chest. On Tuesday, security forces disclosed that they had stopped a car in Kano’s neighbouring state of Katsina, arresting three suspected Boko Haram members. Government spokesman Mike Omeri has disclosed that the group included one male and two girls, aged 18 and 10, adding that while the older two attempted to flee the scene, the “10-year-old…was discovered to have been strapped with an explosive belt.”
While this new tactic of deploying young women and girls is likely being used by the militant group as a means of lowering their profile to prevent being targeted by security officials, the method is not new as international terrorist organizations have in the past used female suicide bombers as women typically raise minimal suspicions. Furthermore, while Boko Haram’s tactics are evolving, the group’s targets remain the same and highlight the group’s anti-Western views.
The change in Boko Haram’s tactics demonstrates the militant group’s continuing threat and ability to transform to the altering security conditions. With the on going military operations, launched in May last year, Boko Haram has adapted itself to Nigerian military bombings and operations by pushing themselves out of the urban city centres in northern Nigeria and into the remote villages and areas, including along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. This latest tactic appears to be a new way in which the militant group can continue carrying out their attacks with minimal detection while maintaining their grip on fear within Nigeria’s society.
The use of female suicide bomber will likely spur further outrage as the country continues to be unable to contain the violence. While it currently remains unclear whether the group is recruiting female bombers, or forcing kidnapped girls to carry out suicide missions, officials in Nigeria fear that Boko Haram may be using those girls who were abducted during a raid in April on a boarding school in Chibok.
Two separate blasts on Monday, carried out by female suicide bombers, have killed at least three people and injured thirteen in Nigeria’s Kano city, bringing the number of attacks this week in the area to five and overshadowing festivities marking the end of Ramadan.
Kano police spokesman Musa Magaji Majia confirmed both attacks, stating that the first blast went off at roughly 10:30 AM (0930 GMT). Officials later disclosed that the attacker had strapped herself with a “low-caliber explosive, which is why the casualties were minimal,” adding that she had targeted women who had lined up to purchase kerosene at a petrol station in the Hotor area, which is located on the outskirts of Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city. Eyewitnesses reported that at the time of the blast, the queue was long as the widely-used cooking gas is often in short supply, noting that when a new shipment arrives, women typically rush to their local vendor to purchase it.
Roughly three hours after the first attack, another female suicide bomber approached the Trade Fair Complex, located in the key commercial district of the city. According to Kano state police chief Aderele Shinaba, the woman was stopped at the gate and blew herself up, adding “it was the same modus operandi…six people were injured, including two police officers.” The attack occurred near the brand new Ado Bayero Shopping Center, which opened in March. The launch of the modern shopping complex, which also includes the only northern Nigerian outlet of South African retailer Shoprite, was seen as a sign that the city was still attractive to investors despite the on going violence.
The latest attacks come after a weekend of violence that has forced authorities to cancel festivities marking the end of Ramadan and has given further indication that Boko Haram militants are seeking to increase their attacks outside of their stronghold, and are likely now focusing on attacking key urban centers like Kano.
On Sunday, police officials confirmed that a female suicide bomber blew herself up outside a university in Kano after police officers had prevented her from carrying out an attack. According to police spokesman Frank Mba, “a female suicide bomber was isolated as she was walking towards the gate of the university.” The attack occurred when the police officers were about to ask a female colleague to body search the woman when she detonated the bomb, killing herself and injuring five others.
At least five people were killed and eight others injured Sunday when a bomb erupted in front of a Catholic church located in a mainly Christian neighborhood of Kano. According to police spokesman Franc Mba, the attack occurred shortly after mass ended at the Saint Charles Catholic church, adding that police investigators “…suspect an IED was thrown from across the road,” at the church, which is located in Kano’s Sabon Gari district. While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the district of Sabon Gari has previously suffered a number of attacks carried out by Boko Haram.
During the early morning hours on Saturday, suspected Boko Haram militants targeted the village of Sigal, located just seven kilometers (4 miles) from Rann, which was attacked the day before. According to local sources, the militants raided the village and abducted a police officer from his house.
On Monday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir confirmed that South Sudanese troops are preparing to enter the rebel-held town of Bor. Earlier, the South Sudanese army confirmed that Bentiu, the capital of oil-rich Unity State, had been taken by fighters supporting former vice-president Riek Machar. Meanwhile in northern Nigeria, a Lebanese businessman has been kidnapped.
President Kiir told Parliament that the army was “ready to move,” adding that the counter-attack had been delayed in order to allow US citizens to be airlifted out. Bor, which lies in the state of Jonglei, was captured by rebels loyal for former vice president Riek Machar last Wednesday. During his address to Parliament, the President repeated his offer to hold talks with Mr. Machar, stating that a delegation of East African foreign minister had offered to mediate the talks. However he did note that Mr. Machar would have “to come to the table without any precondition.”
The mounting ethnic violence over the past week has raised fears that clashes may turn into a civil war. While the president, a member of the majority Dinka ethnic group, has accused Mr. Machar, a member of the Nuer community, of attempting a coup, the former vice president has denied these claims. Mr. Machar has also since indicated that the president has been carrying out a purge of his rivals.
Over the past week, United Nations humanitarian staff in South Sudan have reported numerous blood scenes and summary executions. A spokesman for the UN in the capital, Juba, has also indicated that UN compounds throughout the country were sheltering more than 40,000 civilians. Joseph Contreas further added that the UN was “doing everything possible to remain in touch with key leaders and seek a peaceful way out of this conflict.”
A statement released by UN humanitarian co-ordinator Toby Lanzer has indicated that an estimated 17,000 people had sought protection in the UN peacekeeping base in Bor. Mr. Lanzar further noted that aid workers are under intense pressure, with humanitarian compounds looted in several locations, adding “we are looking at a massive increase in need and I am engaging all parties to ensure that civilians are protected and that aid workers are able to access people who need our help.”
Over the weekend, the US deployed extra troops in order to help evacuate Americans and other foreigners. In Bor, three US military aircraft were fired upon on Saturday, forcing officials to abort the evacuation. On Sunday, the US re-entered using civilian US and UN helicopters. The UK is deploying, what is expected to be a final plane, on Monday to help Britons flee South Sudan.
Meanwhile in Nigeria, gunmen have kidnapped a Lebanese businessman in the northern Nigerian city of Kano after militants stormed his factory.
Police spokesman Magaji Majiya has indicated that police have launched a manhunt to arrest the attackers, adding that a man and woman were wounded when the militants opened fire as they took the man hostage. On the grounds sources have reported that police in Kano have mounted checkpoints throughout the city as they attempt to track down the hostage takers.
Police officials have identified the Lebanese national as Hassan Zein. Zein, the Managing Director of M.C. Plastic Company, was seized in the early hours of Monday from the company’s premises in the Sharada Industrial area of Kano. So far no group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. While officials have indicated that there are suspicions that militant Islamists carried out the attack, the possibility that a criminal gang took the man hostage for ransom cannot be ruled out at this time.
This is not the first reported incident of a foreigner being kidnapped in the northern town of Kano. Last year, a German engineer, Edgar Fritz Raupach, was abducted in Kano by militant Islamists. He was later killed during a security force operation to rescue him. While it was not clear which group had abducted Mr. Raupach, a video purported to be from al-Qaeda’s North Africa wing, AQIM, demanded at the time that Germany free a woman jailed on terror charges in return for his release.