News / Africa

Nigeria Launches Airstrikes Against Militants

Nigeria Launches Jets and Helicopter Gunships Against Militantsi
X
May 17, 2013 7:31 PM
The Nigerian military has begun operations against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, using fighter jets and helicopter gunships. Thousands of people have died in Boko Haram attacks and the government's counter-insurgency effort in the past four years. As a result, there are some doubts over the effectiveness of an all-out military response, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Nigeria Launches Jets and Helicopter Gunships Against Militants
Henry Ridgwell
The Nigerian military has begun operations against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, using fighter jets and helicopter gunships. Thousands of people have died in Boko Haram attacks and associated sectarian violence in recent years. However there are some doubts over the effectiveness of an all-out military response.

Declaring a state of emergency in three northeastern states Tuesday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ordered security forces to take all necessary action.

​"Whoever they may be, wherever they may go, we will hunt them down, we will fish them out, and we will bring them to justice," he said. "No matter what it takes, we will win this war against terror."

Nigerian troops are already part of the international force currently fighting Islamist insurgents in Mali.

Past experience suggests it will be difficult to eradicate the Boko Haram insurgency on Nigerian territory, said Elizabeth Donnelly, assistant head of the Africa Program at London-based policy institute Chatham House.

Major attacks blamed on Nigeria's Boko Haram
 
2009
July - Attacks prompt government crackdown in Bauchi and Maiduguri; 800 people killed
 
2010
December - Bombings in central Nigeria and church attacks in the northeast kill 86
 
2011
June - Attack on a bar in Maiduguri kills 25
August - Suicide bomber kills 23 at U.N. building in Abuja
November - Bombings in Damaturu and Potiskum kill 65
December - Christmas Day bombings across Nigeria kill 39
 
2012
January -- Gun and bomb attacks in Kano up to 200
February - Maiduguri market attack kills 30
June - Suicide car bombings at three churches kill 21
July - Attacks in Plateau state kill dozens, including two politicians at a funeral for the victims
 
2013
February - French family kidnapped in Cameroon, held hostage for two months
April - Fighting with troops in Baga kills up to 200; residents say troops set deadly fires
May - Attacks in Bama kill more than 50
July - Gunmen kill 30 at a school in Yobe
August - Gunmen kill 44 at a mosque outside Maiduguri
September - Gunmen kill 40 students at a post-secondary school in Yobe
December - Militants attack military installations in Maiduguri

2014
January - Militants kill 74 people and burn down a village in attacks in Borno and Adamawa
February - Gunmen kill as many as 60 in attack on school in Yobe
April - Militants abduct 276 schoolgirls
"It is not a change in strategy. It is an intensification of strategy," she said. "And there have been a lot of complaints about the significant use of force in the past and that it hasn't actually achieved anything. In fact you've seen a strengthening of Boko Haram."

Donnelly said the military risks being drawn into a long campaign against an elusive target.

"These states that are under the state of emergency all border Nigeria's neighbors - Chad, Cameroon, Niger - and that goes back to the question of sustainability and effectiveness," she said. "Is it possible that members [of Boko Haram] might simply be displaced and return?"

The north of Nigeria has been neglected for too long by central government, said Virginia Comolli, a Nigeria analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"Because things have been neglected and downplayed for so long it also means that the situation has degenerated so much, that now a military component to the strategy is inevitable," she said.

Comolli said the high youth unemployment in northern cities like Kano acts as fertile ground for extremism.

"They are likely to remain on the streets, carry on as beggars because that's also what they do during their so-called education," she added. "And some of them join criminal groups and perhaps also more extremist groups. Not so much because they espouse the extreme ideology but because these groups may offer them the chance to channel their grievances and also to make some money."

Since an escalation in attacks in 2009, Boko Haram has targeted Christian churches and villages. There have been reprisal attacks on Muslims and allegations of abuses by the military.

"They are very afraid of Boko Haram and Boko Haram-related violence," said Donnelly of Chatham House. "But they're also very afraid of the joint task force that is present in the northeast of Nigeria. And further to these abuses of course it's economic matters, people just cannot go about their daily lives."

The state of emergency in the northeast lasts for six months.  Analysts say the military operation could take much longer.

(In a previous version of this story, Elizabeth Donnelly was incorrectly identified as Elizabeth Connelly.)

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs