In what is the latest wave of attacks to be blamed on Boko Haram, at least forty-five people were killed Tuesday when two female suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowded market in northeastern Nigeria. The explosions come as suspected Boko Haram militants have control of another town in northeastern Nigeria.
The explosions occurred around 11 AM (1000GMT) on One Way road in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, near the Monday Market area where at least fifteen people were killed in an attack carried out by suspected Boko Haram militants on 1 July. An official from Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) confirmed “many people have been killed,” but that an official death toll has not been compiled. According to on the ground sources, the first bomber stood by a motorized rickshaw packed with goods in the busy market and took a call on her mobile phone. She later dropped the mobile phone and blew herself up. Officials currently believe that the bomb was likely concealed in the rickshaw. According to an eyewitness, “about 10 minutes later, another woman who looked about 19 and carrying what looked like a baby on her back…arrived at the scene that was crowded with rescuers and locals….She then detonated the bomb on her back.”
In recent months, northern Nigeria has increasingly been hit by a wave of suicide bomb attack carried out by women. In July, there were four such attacks that occurred within a week in Kano city. Officials believe that Boko Haram is using either willing volunteers or coercing young women and girls into carrying out suicide attacks. According to sources, three women, said to be “female recruiters” for Boko Haram were reportedly arrested in July while an alleged trainer of women bombers was detained in August in Kano with up to 16 “trainees.”
Tuesday’s attacks also came after the militants seized control of another town in Nigeria’s restive northeast. Early Monday, Boko Haram took over the town of Damasak, located less than 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Maiduguri, in the far north of Borno, near the border with neighbouring Niger. According to local sources, the militants entered the town disguised as traders, carrying boxes that were packed with AK-47 rifles. They then set fire to houses and killed an unspecified number of people.
Over the past several weeks, Nigeria has been rapidly losing control of large areas of the northeast to Boko Haram, which is attempting to carve out an Islamic State. With reports surfacing this week that the militant group has “completely surrounded” the city of Maiduguri, if the Nigerian military fails to carry out military operations to secure the area and reinforce the capital city, it is highly likely that Borno state, along with some areas of neighbouring Adamawa and Yobe states, will fall to the militant group in the coming weeks.
Traditional elders in Borno state warned this week that Nigeria’s militant Islamists have “completely surrounded” Maiduguri, noting that the military now needed to “fortify” the city, which has a population of more than two million, in order to prevent an assault “from all directions.” A statement issued by the Borno Elders Forum (BEF), which represents influential people in the state, including former government minsters and civil servants, has reported that Boko Haram militants have “annexed” areas that were about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Maiduguri. The BEF has also disclosed that they are “…convinced that the Federal Government of Nigeria has not shown sufficient political will to fight Boko Haram and rescue us from the clutches of the insurgents which may ultimately lead to the total annihilation of the inhabitants of Borno,” noting “the insurgents have rendered impassable almost all the roads leading to Maiduguri.”
Boko Haram appears to be carrying out a two-pronged assault, from the northeast to the southeast, with militants likely to be reinforcing the captured areas prior to taking over Maiduguri. Boko Haram was founded in Maiduguri in 2002, making the state capital a high value target for them. Boko Haram have seized territory along at least two of the main approaches to the capital city, while their control of towns and settlements to the south and near the border with Cameroon have effectively cut off the Nigerian military, preventing them from responding quickly and carrying out operations to recapture the area. In recent weeks, Boko Haram militants have destroyed several key bridges, including one on the road from Biu to Maiduguri, a bridge near Gamboru Ngala that links Nigeria to Cameroon, a bridge in Potiskum that links Maiduguri and Damaturu to Abuja and a bridge in Yobe that links to the southern areas of Borno and Adamawa. Some of the destroyed bridges were strategically linked to Maiduguri and have now made it difficult for the Nigerian military to reinforce Maiduguri and other towns in Borno state.
Further out, in Borno, Boko Haram are believed to have seized Gamboru Ngala, Dikwa, Gwoza and Marte. Bama has also been reported captured by the militants however the Nigerian military and some locals have contested these reports. Damboa, which was seized in July, has since been reported to have been retaken. In Adamawa state, Madagali has been captured while in Yobe, Buni Yadi has been taken. Other communities in the northeastern region of Nigeria, which are believed to have been seized or heavily contested, include Banki, Kerawa, Ashigashiy, Ngoshe, Pulka and Goniri. Further seizures of towns in the area, and which border Cameroon, cannot be ruled out at this time.
Despite Boko Haram’s recent takeover of a large area of Nigerian territory, actions similar to the recent lightning advance achieved by IS militants in Iraq, Nigeria’s military has continued to deny the severity of the threat. On Friday, Nigeria’s defence ministry dismissed “alarmist” reports pertaining to Maiduguri, stating, “Security Arrangements for the Defence of Maiduguri has been upgraded to handle any planned attack.” If Boko Haram are successful in taking over Maiduguri, he fall of the state capital will mean a significant symbolic and strategic victory for the militant group, effectively enabling them to control a major city and an international airport, a victory that has not yet been seen in the militant group’s five-year insurgency
Dozens of Nigerian soldiers have refused to deploy for an upcoming offensive against Boko Haram militants, stating that they will not adhere to military orders until the receive better equipment and weaponry.
On Wednesday, a number of Nigerian troops revealed that they had been ordered to move out of their barracks in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri towards the Gwoza area of Borno state, where the insurgents have reportedly seized parts of the territory. One soldier disclosed, “we have vowed not to move one inch until our superiors provide us with all necessary weapons to effectively confront and dislodge Boko Haram, who have far better arms.” The troops have indicated that they have set up a camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri. While Defence Ministry spokesman Chris Olukolade indicted Wednesday that there was no mutiny in Borno, stating that Nigerian soldiers “are too disciplined and patriotic to indulge in this dangerous offence,” he did not categorically deny that some of the troops had refused to follow military orders, stating only that any such move by soldiers must be “properly tried in a military court” before it can be classified as a mutiny.
Although the Defence Ministry has repeatedly claimed that “no soldier has been sent on any mission without being armed,” over the past several months, a number of Nigerian soldiers have come forward, stating that the ill-equipped forces were being gunned down by Islamist fighters who were equipped with heavy firepower. Some officials and independent experts have backed these accusations, noting that Boko Haram fighters are better armed than Nigerian troops. One such official is Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima, who was fiercely criticized by the military after he made a similar statement in February. Residents in towns raided by the Islamist militants have also reported that the insurgents are often armed with rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft weapons mounted on trucks and that in some cases they have armoured personnel carriers. In contrast, Nigerian soldiers have at times reportedly lacking ammunition for their AK-47 rifles and have been sent out to the bushlands to fight the militants without basic communication equipment.
Earlier this month, several military wives staged a protest at the gate of a military base in Maiduguri in an attempt to stop their husbands from deploying to Gwoza until they were properly equipped. President Goodluck Jonathan recently requested that Nigerian lawmakers approve a US $1 billion foreign loan that would be utilized to upgrade the capacity of the military. While parliament did not vote on the bill, as it was announced a day before summer recess, many see the President’s request as a tact acknowledgement that his military is being out-matched by the militants.
At least eighteen people were killed Tuesday, and fifty-five others were injured, after an explosion at a market in Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria.
According to on the ground sources, the attack occurred near Maiduguri’s busiest roundabout, which is located near the popular Monday Market, during morning rush hour. Nigeria’s defense headquarters has confirmed the attack, stating “a van loaded with charcoal and IED exploded at Monday Market in Maiduguri this morning. The location has been cordoned off.” Multiple eyewitnesses have reported that crowds at the scene attempted to attack firefighters deployed to the area, accusing them of arriving too slowly and hindering their efforts to put out the blaze. Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, officials are blaming Boko Haram militants. Despite attacks in Maiduguri once being a daily occurrence, a military offensive launched last year, and backed by local vigilante groups, has had some success in flushing the insurgents out of the city and into the remote areas of Borno state, where Maiduguri is the capital. However those gains appear to have now been lost, as a series of attacks in the city this year have targeted civilians and the security services. In January, a bomb attack targeted one of the city’s crowded markets while in March, hundreds of militants stormed the military’s Giwa Barracks, setting free a number of militants who were in prison.
Meanwhile on Monday, Nigeria’s military announced that it has broken up a Boko Haram intelligence cell, arresting its leader who is alleged to have taken part in the April 2014 abduction of over 200 schoolgirls. A statement issued by the defense headquarters indicated that troops have found a militants’ “intelligence cell” headed by a businessman “who participated actively in the abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok,” in northeastern Borno state on April 14. The statement further added that the businessman has been identified as Babuji Ya’ari, who also is a member of a civilian youth group, known as the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), which has worked along with the military to fight Boko Haram. The suspect is alleged to have used his position within the youth group as a cover to work for the militants. Officials from the Nigerian military also indicated Monday “the arrest of the businessman who is known to deal in tricycles has also yielded some vital information and facilitated the arrest of other members of the terrorists’ intelligence cell who are women.” The military has accused the suspect of spying for the Islamist militant group as well as spearheading the murder of Emir of Gwoza in Borno state one month ago, adding that since 2011, the suspect has been coordinating several deadly attacks in Maiduguri, including the attacks on customs and military locations in the town. It remains unclear whether this arrest will help in the rescue of the 219 schoolgirls who are still missing.
Unconfirmed reports indicated Wednesday that suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted more than sixty women and young girls in the restive northeastern region of Nigeria. If confirmed by officials, the latest abduction will likely fuel further public frustration over the Nigerian government’s inability to end the five-year insurgency.
The latest mass kidnapping to hit Nigeria reportedly occurred during a raid last week in Kummabza village in the Damboa district of Borno state, which left at least thirty people dead. Although Nigeria’s defense headquarters in Abuja indicated on Monday that it was “yet to confirm the several reports on the abduction of girls in Borno as of now,” a senior officer in the Damboa local government did state “over 60 women were hijacked and forcefully taken away by the terrorists,” adding “the village was also destroyed. Some of the survivors of the attack, who do not have means of transporting themselves, especially old women and men, trekked to Lassa, in the Askira-Uba local government area of Borno state, 25 kilometers away….Others went to Gulak in Adamawa state, where they are now taking refuge.”
A security source indicated late Tuesday that Nigerian security forces are investigating reports of the mass kidnapping in villages located in the northeastern state of Borno, where Boko Haram militants abducted more than 200 schoolgirls two months ago. Sources have indicated that military officials are currently looking into reports that suspected Islamist insurgents raided at least three villages over the weekend, located 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the state capital Maiduguri. Nigerian media are reporting that as many as 91 villagers had been kidnapped, most of them women and young girls, however these reports have not been verified. While the militant group, which has killed thousands in bomb and gun attacks, was initially focused on targeting government and security targets as well as churches and those Muslim leaders who rejected their brand of Islam, recently, Boko Haram militants have increasingly been targeting civilians, gaining global attention when they kidnapped more than 200 girls from a school in the remote Borno village of Chibok in April.
The abductions are the latest to take place in the state of Borno, which has been the worst affected by the militant group’s five-year insurgency. On April 14, Boko Haram militants kidnapped more than 200 teenaged girls from their dormitories at a boarding school in Chibok while on June 7, at least 20 young mothers from a nomadic settlement in and around the village of Garkin Fulani were also reportedly kidnapped, however it has since been claimed that their disappearances could be due to annual migration. Last week’s kidnappings are believed to be an attempt by the militant group to refocus attention on its demands for the release of militant fighters. Boko Haram has indicated that it would be willing to release the 219 schoolgirls in exchange for the freedom of its fighters who are currently being held in Nigerian jails.
Meanwhile in a separate incident, unidentified gunmen have killed at least thirty-eight people, mostly women and children, in raids that targeted two villages in northern Kaduna state, an area of the country that has been plagued by years of sectarian conflict. According to the head of the area’s local government, Emmanuel Adamu Danzaria, the late Monday attacks targeted the remote villages of Fadan Karshi and Nandu, in the southern region of Kaduna state, adding, “twenty-one people were killed in Karshi and 17 others were killed in Nandu. We are yet to identify those behind the attacks.” Ahmed Maiyaki, spokesman for Kaduna Governor Mukhtar Yero, confirmed the attacks and the death toll however he declined to discuss which group may have been responsible. Kaduna, which has a religiously divided capital city, has seen waves of violence that has often involved the area’s Christians and Muslims, with the unrest often being sparked by elections and other political disputes. Following Nigeria’s 2011 polls, hundreds were killed in Kaduna. Separately, in rural areas, bloodshed has been linked to fighting over land, which has erupted between agrarian groups and a tribe of composed of mainly nomadic herdsmen, the Fulani.