Nigeria: Boko 2.0 Arrives With A Bang


June 30, 2011: Islamic militant group Boko Haram has gotten everyone's attention with a string of bombings. But the group has been around for nine years, in the northeast, and grew slowly.  Four years ago, the violence began to grow, and two years ago, hundreds of Boko Haram members were making attacks on police and government targets. That uprising was savagely put down. The new one will be more difficult to deal with.

Boko Haram is popular because it fights to eliminate the corruption that stifles the economy, and much else, in Nigeria. While the Christian southerners (and many Moslems) believe that clean government will solve the problem, Boko Haram wants a religious (Islamic) dictatorship, such as the one the Taliban established in Afghanistan in the 1990s. That approach has never worked, but for the Islamic fanatics, on a Mission From God, such realities don't matter. Killing unbelievers is fulfilling, and demonstrates that something is being done.

But these terror tactics, new to Nigeria, have failed everywhere else. The problem is that the use of bombs kills the civilians that the Islamic militants depend on for support and protection (that is, not giving information to the police.) Normally, Nigerians avoid the army and police. But when they fear Boko Haram terrorism more, they will tip off the security forces, and that is a death sentence for the terrorists. Boko Haram is depending on the army and police to continue being savage and corrupt, even though army and police commanders insist that new, and effective, counter-terror techniques will be employed. Time will tell, and quickly.

The police have, without success, tried to establish communications with Boko Haram. This is to be expected. Two years ago, Boko Haram launched an even more ambitious uprisings, with large scale attacks on police stations and other government facilities (as well as churches). The police put that down by seizing hundreds or real, or suspected, Islamic militants. The police tortured many, and summarily executed suspected leaders. This led to a lot of public outrage up north, and some police commanders were arrested and prosecuted. All this aided Boko Haram in rebuilding themselves. Boko 2.0, however, is more into terror than insurrection, partly because it is not as large as the 2009 version, and expects the worst if caught by police or soldiers.

Even outlaws have problems with corruption. For example, since last year, five leaders of Niger Delta rebel gangs, who accepted the amnesty, have been murdered. Other leaders feared a secret army program to murder the rebel leaders to prevent them from discarding the amnesty and going back to their evil ways. Further investigation revealed that the dead leaders had been killed by followers who believed their bosses had stolen amnesty funds lower ranking rebels were to have received.

June 29, 2011: In the capital (Abuja) a curfew has been imposed, forcing bars and clubs (favorite Boko Haram targets) to close at 10 PM. The government believes that terror attacks in the capital are the logical next step for Boko Haram and many new security measures are being implemented to prevent this.

June 28, 2011: About 3,000 soldiers have arrived in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, to deal with the increased Boko Haram violence.   

June 27, 2011: In the northeastern city of Maiduguri, Boko Haram set off another bomb, killing three more.

June 26, 2011: In the northeastern city of Maiduguri, Boko Haram bombed a beer garden, killing 25 and wounding many more. Boko Haram believes everyone in the Moslem north should obey Islamic (Sharia) law, and that means no alcohol. Christians in the north don't go along with this, nor do many Moslems. But Boko Haram is willing to kill to get their way, but now, so are many of the beer drinkers.

June 22, 2011: Troops were sent to Ekpan, a town in the Niger Delta, where youth gangs sponsored by rival politicians have gone to war with each other. Several dead and many wounded so far, and the troops were called in before the violence grew. Sponsoring and financing youth gangs is a common practice, but sometimes gang rivalries get out of control (of the sponsors) and the police or army has to intervene.

The commander of the army announced that training had been modified for troops headed north to deal with Islamic terrorists (mainly Boko Haram). The army has a reputation of getting out-of-control when dealing with civilian unrest or counter-terrorism. Even the army brass realize that good relations with civilians is essential if the army is to cope with Islamic terrorists. The question is, can new training change the savage army traditions? The police are no better. Two police commanders are currently being prosecuted for executing two Boko Haram leaders two years ago.  



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