Unable to hit well defended military and government targets, Boko Haram has recently concentrated on schools. In the last month nearly fifty teachers and students have been killed and several schools damaged by fire and explosives. This is not the first time Boko Haram has gone after schools. Last year they burned down several. But those were night attacks that caused few casualties. Now they are going after students and teachers and killing them. Boko Haram literally means “Western education is forbidden” but most Boko Haram members direct their violence against non-Moslems and government officials. Because of several months of intense army and police action in the center of Boko Haram activity in the northeast, the Islamic terrorist organization has lost nearly a thousand members to arrest or combat and most Boko Haram bases and safe houses have been captured. Civilian volunteer groups have become common, and some of them are armed and willing to go after individual or small groups of Boko Haram. Apparently attacking students and teachers engaged in forbidden activity (Western education) is seen as a convenient way to get a lot of attention. But this strategy is backfiring as most northeasterners (and Nigerian Moslems in general) prefer Western education because it helps kids to get ahead in life. Boko Haram initially won wide popular support because of their vows to fight corruption and use Islamic (Sharia) law to prevent corruption. Boko Haram has been largely ineffective against corruption and Sharia law is not all that popular. There is still a lot of anger among the young men in the north, but only a small minority support Boko Haram and that minority is getting smaller as more civilians die from Boko Haram violence. But two months of military activity in the northeast is also unpopular because travel is restricted (by many checkpoints) and wireless phone service has been shut down. There are few landline phones and satellite phones are forbidden (but difficult to police) as well.
Unlike the tribal gangs who were tearing up the Niger River Delta oil region a decade ago, the Boko Haram leadership are much more resistant to working out a peace deal. With the tribal gangs in the delta the government was able to greatly reduce the violence with amnesty and cash payments (many of which continue). Boko Haram are religious extremists and not attracted to that sort of thing. Worse, most Boko Haram leaders will not even agree to talk. They want a religious (Islamic) dictatorship for all of Nigeria and at the moment will settle for nothing less. Many southerners are willing to proceed with a fight to the death, but many northerners are not. That’s mainly because the army and police tend to kill a lot of innocent bystanders during their operations. This bad behavior has long been a problem and now that it is getting more international attention the government is putting more pressure on the military commanders to do something about it. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for a problem that is caused by a long tradition of poor supervision at the lowest levels, inadequate training, and corruption at the top that prevents workable reforms.
The army is having morale problems with its troops assigned to anti-terrorist operations in the northeast. The troops are angry mainly because such assignments are supposed to last only three months at a time before returning them to their bases (and families, friends, and less dangerous duty). Some troops have been in the northeast for eight months and the army has not said when rotations will resume. The troops feel it is unfair because other army units have remained at their bases all through the Boko Haram crises instead of relieving some of the battalions that have gone north and been stuck there. The troops would like to get a few months at home before going north again but the army wants to keep experienced (in operating in the northeast against Boko Haram) troops in action for as long as possible. Many troops appreciate that, but a growing number do not.
July 8, 2013: Britain has decided to ban Boko Haram (and a smaller spinoff group) as international terrorists. This will make it very difficult for Boko Haram to raise money, recruit, or operate at all in Britain.
July 7, 2013: In the northeast (Yobe state) officials ordered all high (secondary) schools closed until the new term begins in September. This is to deny Boko Haram any more targets for their school attacks.
July 6, 2013: In the northeast (Yobe state) Boko Haram men attacked a boarding school and killed 42 students and teachers. Most of the students died when they were locked in their dormitory which was then set on fire. Boko Haram shot dead any who tried to get out. This was believed to be in retaliation for an army raid two days earlier that had killed 22 Boko Haram men.
July 4, 2013: In the
northeastern city of Maiduguri,
troops, with the help of local volunteers, prevented a Boko Haram attack on a police station. About two dozen Boko Haram men, disguised as women (wearing hijabs with weapons hidden beneath the layers of cloth) were detected before they could get into position. Three of the attackers were shot dead and twenty others caught and arrested. Boko Haram began trying to hide in female clothing because the civilian volunteers too often pick them out of crowds of civilians. But just wearing female clothing is not a perfect disguise, because men tend to be taller and move differently than women. In addition, wearing female clothing is looked down on by local custom and is seen as cowardly.
July 3, 2013: In the
northeastern city of Maiduguri, Boko Haram set off a roadside bomb, in an attempt to scare off civilian volunteers who were accompanying troops to help identify Boko Haram men in a neighborhood known to harbor many of the Islamic terrorists.
In central Nigeria (Jos) police report they have killed at least a hundred armed tribesmen who were on their way to steal cattle and attack villages of a rival tribe.
July 1, 2013: In the southwest (Ondo state) police recaptured 49 of the prisoners who escaped yesterday. Over two thirds of the 50,000 people being held in Nigerian prisons are awaiting trial. The Nigerians judicial system is notoriously slow, corrupt, and it doesn’t work so well.
northeastern city of Maiduguri vigilantes burned down the home of a senior politician believed to have ties to Boko Haram. Elsewhere in the area troops killed at least 40 men believed to be Boko Haram.
June 30, 2013: In the southwest (Ondo state) at least twenty gunmen attacked a prison and freed 175 inmates. Two guards were killed during the attack, which involved explosives used to create a breach in the prison wall.
June 29, 2013:
In central Nigeria (Jos) at least 48 people died because of violence between Christian and Moslem tribesmen.