Up north in Borno the local governor and the federal government are arguing over why Boko Haram has managed to kill so many people in the last few weeks. Over 400 have died in a series of spectacular raids. The governor made headlines by declaring that the Islamic terrorists were better armed, equipped and more motivated than the army. The military responded by denying this was the case and pointing out that all these Boko Haram raids were near the Cameroon border and in late afternoon or at night and that the attackers hit places far from army or police reinforcements. The attackers retreated into Cameroon and Nigerian forces do not have permission to cross the border in pursuit. Cameroon does not have enough soldiers or police to guard the entire border. The frontier area is largely rural, as well as being hilly (the foothills of the Gwoza Mountains) and easily trafficable by vehicles off the roads. Although the areas is semi-desert there are plenty of trees and vegetation most of the year. This makes it difficult for the air force to spot the approaching raiders. In short, Boko Haram has more places to hide than the army has people to watch. The army did respond by closing the border with Cameroon in Borno state, but this will not be much of an impediment to the Boko Haram raiders, who usually avoid the official border crossings. The closing will mainly inconvenience legal users of the crossings and make it more difficult for Nigerians to flee the Boko Haram violence.
Boko Haram, pleased with all the media attention announced that it will begin attacking oil facilities in the south (the Niger River Delta). That’s is more boast than reality. The south is largely Christian and the local Moslems are on their best behavior so as not to antagonize the Christian majority down there. Moreover the delta is heavily policed because of all the oil facilities, along with many well-armed Christian criminals who make a living by stealing oil. Moslem terrorists from the north are not welcome and would be easy to spot (different tribes, cultures, languages accents and all that.) Some of the southern Christians would appreciate it if Boko Haram came south as that would provide an opportunity for angry Christians to get some payback for all the atrocities inflicted on the Christian minority up north. The Moslem minority in the south insists (with considerable conviction) that they are anti-Boko Haram and would report any signs that these fanatics were trying to set up shop in the south. So the Boko Haram threat is more bluster than reality. But given that Boko Haram considers itself on a Mission From God, they may well try to carry out attacks in the south. Previous attempts have failed, but if you believe your activities are Divinely Approved than trying again is not out of the question.
Meanwhile Boko Haram also repeated its threats against Moslem clerics in the north who preach against Islamic terrorism. In addition to assassinating prominent clerics who criticize them, some of the Boko Haram raids hit the mosques of these clerics, burning them down while killing many of the local Moslems who attend the mosque. Boko Haram is all about terror, big time.
Boko Haram also has cash and Cameroon has detected a sharp increase in the movement of illegal weapons to the Nigerian border area over the last year. Gunrunners throughout the region have been detected seeking, and often, getting large orders from the Boko Haram groups camped out in Cameroon. The Islamic terrorists obviously have cash. Last September Cameroon police seized a truck carrying several thousand AK-47s and heading for the Nigerian border. In January another truck was stopped and found carrying 655 rifles and pistols. Other trucks have been carrying hidden cargo consisting of heavy (12.7mm and 14.5mm) machine-guns, ammunition or RPGs. It’s not that gunrunners headed for Nigeria are unknown in this part of Cameroon. But in the past the weapons smugglers were carrying smaller quantities and headed into Nigeria to supply the many criminal gangs that politicians maintain as private armies (especially during elections). But now the quantities are much larger, and they are stopping at the border and sold on the Cameroon side.
Another new problem Cameroon has on the border is refugees from Nigeria. There are over 100,000 of them so far and there is definitely a Boko Haram presence in the refugee camps. Boko Haram does not make spectacular attacks on the Cameroon side of the border, seeking to maintain good relations with the border police so they can continue to use Cameroon as a sanctuary. This lack of Boko Haram violence attracts the refugees, who are thoroughly terrified of Boko Haram.
February 22, 2014: Tribal violence continues in central Nigeria (Plateau State) as Moslem and Christian gunmen attacked each other’s villages killing at least 49 people and destroying much property in several attacks over the last three days. This is a continuation of the series of attacks that began in the last month. Moslem nomadic Fulani tribesmen have been fighting with Christian and pagan farmers outside the city of Jos for years. The violence has gotten worse now and there were over a thousand casualties in 2013. Boko Haram has recently claimed involvement, but that appears to be marginal. The Fulani have long claimed that the government was sending Christian police to persecute them because of their religion (not because they were constantly attacking Christian farmers). The settled (farming) tribes have been there a long time and in the last few decades more Fulani have come south looking for pasturage and water for their herds and have increasingly used force to get what they want.
February 21, 2014: A Nigerian court ordered the government to either bring charges and arrest the recently dismissed Central Bank head (Lamido Sanusi) or leave him alone. On the 20th president Johnson suspended Sanusi for unspecified irregularities and federal agents seized Sanusi’s passport. Sanusi’s real crime is supplying anti-corruption investigators with data proving that the government officials have recently stolen over $20 billion of oil revenue. Theft on that scale is believed to involve the highest officials in the national government, especially if Sanusi can provide sufficient documentation on the details.
February 19, 2014: In the north (Borno state) Boko Haram gunmen attacked, for the fourth time in two years, Bama, a village 21 kilometers from an army base. Nearly fifty people were killed this time as the Islamic terrorists looted and burned the town, including the palace of a prominent tribal chief. Because the military base is nearby the army often catches the attackers as they flee and kills a lot of them. But the Cameroon border is also nearby and the Islamic terrorists that once across the border they are safe. The Boko Haram in this area have lots of vehicles mounting heavy (12.7mm and 14.5mm) machine-guns, apparently bought in Cameroon by black market weapons dealers. Boko Haram keeps coming into Nigeria because that’s where the money is and the Islamic terrorists need cash to survive. These raids are not just to terrify but also to steal supplies and equipment.
February 17, 2014: Niger reported that a series of army raids in the east (Diffa, on the Nigerian border adjacent to Borno state) led to the arrest of twenty Boko Haram men from Nigeria. A Boko Haram camp was destroyed along with a large quantity of weapons and ammunition. The troops also killed several Boko Haram members. The Niger officers on the scene determined that Boko Haram was preparing to make attacks in Niger in retaliation for the Niger army and police operations against Boko Haram.
February 15, 2014: In the north (Borno state) Boko Haram attacked a Christian village near the Cameroon border and killed over a hundred people. Several other villages were attacked in the area but there were far fewer deaths from those attacks. People in the area now know the run for the bush at the first sign of a Boko Haram attack.
February 13, 2014: In the north (Adamawa state) nine soldiers were killed when their patrol was ambushed by Boko Haram gunmen. Survivors of the ambush say that at least nine of the ambushers were also killed.
February 11, 2014: In the north (Borno state) over a hundred Boko Haram men dressed in army uniforms and riding in trucks painted in army colors attacked a town. There the gunmen killed 52 people, wounded many more, kidnapped 20 teenage girls and burned down over a thousand structures, including a mosque. The Boko Haram men also had an army armored vehicle which they had apparently bought or stolen. The raiders rode off with many local vehicles they seized. The police and soldiers stationed in the town fled when they realized how many Boko Haram there were. The Boko Haram men destroyed about 70 percent of the town during the six hours they were their killing, burning and looting.