Nigeria: Trouble At The Top

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July 13, 2015: Boko Haram violence has left over 600 dead in the last six weeks. Since Boko Haram began operating in 2002 they have caused over 13,000 deaths and they have little popular support even in the most conservative areas of the Moslem north. The army says it is still going after Boko Haram camps and bases. President Buhari unexpectedly ordered the army to stop using troops for manning highway checkpoints. This enabled Boko Haram gunmen to move more freely because the police did not replace all the abandoned army checkpoints. The early July checkpoint order was because the president felt that internal security is the job of the police and that the army was only helping out temporarily. Buhari is being criticized for the checkpoint order and for not acting to replace less capable military leaders and put more effective officers in charge. Buhari is a retired general and he knows how this works, but has said nothing about what he will do and when he will do it. This again raises questions about the ability of the government to coordinate army and police operations in the fight against Boko Haram. The new president now has to deal with accusations that the abandoned checkpoints played a role in the growing Boko Haram violence in the northeast.

Meanwhile the army is still searching for and finding Boko Haram bases. The problem is that Boko Haram has gone mobile. They can no longer muster large forces to capture and control towns but their dozens of smaller groups are able to raid, loot and carry out suicide bombing attacks in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring countries. How long Boko Haram will be able to keep this up remains to be seen. The army has rapid reaction forces set up that have been quick to arrive at areas where Boko Haram attacked. The problem is stopping the Islamic terrorists before they can make these attacks in the first place. That requires finding Boko Haram leaders, bomb builders and stockpiles of weapons and bomb making equipment. Prisoners and captured documents indicate that the Boko Haram organization has quickly reorganized after its recent defeat and that this was largely because some bases and stockpiles (of ammo, weapons and explosives) survived the massive search operations and that a few dozen key people (leaders and bomb builders) did as well and quickly organized several dozen raids and bombings that have taken place since May.

Much of the Boko Haram violence since late May has been directed at mosques and churches. Having lost most of their popular support in the Moslem north Boko Haram is going after clerics and mosques that are most energetic in their anti-Boko Haram activity. The idea appears to be that if they can’t convince Moslem critics to change their minds they might be able to terrorize them into shutting up. The attacks on churches are part of the basic Boko Haram goal eliminating all non-Moslems from the largely Moslem north of Nigeria.  Boko Haram also recently released a video in which ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) confirmed that Boko Haram had become an affiliate. In late April Boko Haram had released a video announcing a merger with ISIL and a name change. Thus Boko Haram becomes ISWAP (Islamic State’s West Africa Province). ISIL was originally a Sunni nationalist Iraqi Islamic terrorist organization that renamed itself ISIL in 2013 when it expanded into Syria. Shortly thereafter it declared itself the “Islamic State” and the leader of a new global Islamic government (or caliphate). This new caliphate was denounced by most Moslems but among Islamic radicals it became trendy to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. One thing Boko Haram and ISIL have in common is a preference for extreme brutality. For this reason most other Islamic terror groups (like al Qaeda and the Taliban) oppose ISIL and often do so violently. Until this recent video ISIL had not acknowledged Boko Haram joining ISIL. This would account for the extent and savagery of recent attacks as that sort of thing was pioneered by ISIL.

Nigeria and several neighboring states are forming a new task force with nearly 9,000 troops and will deploy it at the end of July against Boko Haram. Aerial reconnaissance has found many suspicious locations in remote areas that could be new Boko Haram camps. Lots of ground troops are needed to search these areas and deal with any large hostile forces encountered. Meanwhile Boko Haram is trying to regain control of key roads, so far without success.

July 12, 2015: In the central Nigerian city of Jos a bomb went off in a church during Sunday worship. There were over a hundred casualties. Police went looking and a similar bomb was found and disabled outside another church.

July 11, 2015: In the east (Taraba state) Moslem gunmen attacked a Christian village and killed four people. This was apparently in retaliation for a Moslem man who earlier had been killed and his motorbike stolen. Moslem nomadic Fulani tribesmen have been fighting with Christian and pagan farmers in central Nigeria for years. The violence has gotten worse lately and there were over a thousand casualties in 2013 and nearly as many in 2014. 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.

In neighboring Niger Boko Haram attacked a prison in Diffa, in an apparent attempt to free Boko Haram men held there. The attack was repulsed with one soldier and three Islamic terrorists killed.

In neighboring Chad a suicide bomber (a man disguised as a woman) attacked a crowded marketplace in the capital, killing at least fifteen.

July 10, 2015: In the northeast (outside Maiduguri, capital of Borno State) Boko Haram raided a village killing eleven civilians and one member of a self-defense militia.

July 7, 2015: In the northeast (Borno State) a female Boko Haram suicide bomber killed four people at a checkpoint. There have been over a dozen recent attacks using female suicide bombers and some of them appear to have been kidnapped girls convinced or coerced to make such attacks.

Boko Haram has repeated an offer they made last year, to exchange over 200 girls they kidnapped from a school in April 2014 for sixteen Boko Haram leaders held in government prisons. The 2014 offer was rejected but a new president took over on May 29th and the Islamic terrorists are trying again. The former government is also accused of killing over 5,000 Boko Haram suspects after arresting them. The security forces have long operated like this and that is a major reason for the initial popularity of Boko Haram. But in the last few years the Islamic terror group have shown they are even more savage and ruthless than the army and police.

July 5, 2015: In the central Nigerian city of Jos two Boko Haram suicide bomb attacks killed 40 people. The target was an anti-Boko Haram Moslem cleric and his supporters. This was the first such Islamic terrorist violence in the area since February. Jos has long been the scene of friction between local Christian farmers and Moslem herders moving south in search of pastures and water.

July 3, 2015: In the northeast (Borno State) six female Boko Haram suicide bombers set off their explosives in a town ten kilometers outside Maiduguri, killing over thirty people. That was the signal for Boko Haram gunmen to come in and kill even more. The Islamic terrorists then looted the place and left before soldiers arrived. The troops did capture a Boko Haram vehicle containing more suicide bomb vests.

June 28, 2015: In Chad police revealed that they had arrested 60 suspects in the June 15 Boko Haram attack (against two police stations) that left 34 dead and more than a hundred wounded in the capital. Four of the attackers were killed and that provided evidence the police were able to exploit. Police found an Islamic terrorist operation in the capital, composed of Chadians as well as foreigners.

June 27, 2015: In the northeast (40 kilometers west of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State) police were called to the scene of an explosion at the side of a highway. It appears that two women, who were hitchhiking their way to Maiduguri, were actually Boko Haram suicide bombers. One of the bombs appeared to have gone off accidentally, killing both women. Police has to call in bomb experts to disable the unexploded bomb on the second woman.

 

 

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