Nigeria: Terrorism, Homesickness And Fear

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August 2, 2013: The twelve week old offensive against Boko Haram has forced the Islamic radical group to depend more on terrorism, often outside major cities like Maiduguri. Schools and Christians in the countryside have been hard hit in the last two months. There are not a lot of attacks, because there aren’t many Boko Haram out in the thinly populated countryside. But eventually news of these attacks makes its way back to the mass media and get publicized more widely. In the last few weeks Boko Haram terrorists have been getting back into the cities and resuming attacks on schools and Christians. Over 100,000 Christians have fled their homes in the northeast in the last few years, most of them recently. Many Moslems in the north have turned against Boko Haram because of this anti-Christian campaign, in part because northern Moslems often have kin living (as a Moslem minority) in the south. So far there has not been much retaliation against Moslems in the south, but with each Christian death in the north the outbreak of retaliation in the south becomes more likely.

The crackdown in the northeast has led some Boko Haram members to flee from the region and try to establish themselves in Moslem communities in the south. This has not worked out so well because the Moslems in the south are a minority and have so far been spared much retaliation by Christians angry over the persecution up north. So, the Boko Haram men find local Moslems quick to let the police know terrorists are in the area. Thus, in the southwest (Lagos and Ogun states), over 40 suspected Boko Haram suspects have been arrested in the last week.

In northeast Nigeria troops from neighboring Niger and Chad are cooperating with Nigerian security forces to make it more difficult for Boko Haram to cross the borders. The Islamic terrorists had been establishing bases in thinly populated parts of Niger and Chad, close to the border, so the Boko Haram men had someplace safe to flee to after an attack. This has led to the destruction of several Boko Haram camps and the arrest of some of the terrorists including, yesterday, one of their leaders in Niger. But these border areas are sparsely populated and have plenty of places to hide.

The army has a growing problem with morale among troops who have been deployed in peacekeeping missions and the Moslem northeast for long periods (in some cases two years). These men leave their families and bases behind and are getting homesick. While peacekeeping missions bring with it extra pay, service in the northeast does not. Moreover, the operations against Boko Haram is a lot more dangerous than foreign peacekeeping missions. The army leadership is tinkering with incentives (more leave and money) to deal with this growing problem.

July 30, 2013: In the northeastern city of Maiduguri the first hundred troops from the Nigerian peacekeeper force in Mali flew in to help with operations against Boko Haram. The Nigerian peacekeeping battalion is being withdrawn from Mali to deal with the Boko Haram problem in areas around Maiduguri. That battalion of 800 troops will be brought back over several weeks. Elsewhere in the northeast Boko Haram death squads in Bui (185 kilometers south of Maiduguri) murdered eight secular teachers and anti-terrorism clerics.

July 29, 2013: In the northeast (Yobe state) Boko Haram gunmen raided a construction site at night and made off with 125 kg (275 pounds) of explosives. Over two months of army and police raids in the northeast have captured most of the bomb making materials Boko Haram had accumulated, and more raids like this are expected as the surviving Boko Haram men rebuild their supply and bomb building network. Elsewhere in the northeast (Kano) Boko Haram bombed three churches in a Christian neighborhood, leaving over 40 dead. Attacks like this are part of a Boko Haram effort to drive all non-Moslems from the largely Moslem north.

July 28, 2013: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram surprised a group of pro-government militia who arrived at a village to search for the terrorists. Boko Haram was there all right but they were heavily armed and killed about two dozen civilians (both militiamen and locals). Over the last few months northeastern Borno and Yobe states have seen thousands of Moslem and Christian young men joining a pro-government militia called the CJTF (Civilian JTF or Joint Task Force, after the military organization of the same name) to provide security from Boko Haram violence and provide information to the security forces about where Boko Haram members are and where they are living. In response, Boko Haram openly declared war on Civilian JTF members and threatened to come to their homes and kill them. Most Civilian JTF members cover their faces while assisting the security forces. While this threat certainly terrified some Civilian JTF members (who generally have no firearms), the leadership publicly defied the Boko Haram threats. The Civilian JTF often operate with heavily armed police or soldiers nearby (ready to move in and arrest Boko Haram suspects the vigilantes identify or fire back if Boko Haram attack). The army has begun to use the volunteers to replace troops at checkpoints. There are still some armed soldiers nearby, in case Boko Haram tries to attack the civilians, but this new policy has enabled more checkpoints to be set up and more thorough searches of vehicles to be conducted. This made it more difficult for Boko Haram to move around, plan, and carry out attacks or to resupply the few men they still have in the cities. All this CJTF activity also made Boko Haram very mad and ready to kill CJTF members whenever they had the chance.

July 25, 2013: In the northeastern city of Maiduguri, members of the CJTF caught and killed a notorious Boko Haram member and burned him to death (in retaliation for the Boko Haram man earlier burning a soldier to death). No arrests were made.  

 

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