News / Africa

    Nigeria Responds to Upsurge in Boko Haram Violence

    Soldiers stand during a parade in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno, Nigeria, May 13, 2013.Soldiers stand during a parade in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno, Nigeria, May 13, 2013.
    x
    Soldiers stand during a parade in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno, Nigeria, May 13, 2013.
    Soldiers stand during a parade in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno, Nigeria, May 13, 2013.
    Anne Look
    Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in three northern Nigerian states and ordered the immediate deployment of more troops, in response to a surge of violence the president says poses a "very serious threat" to Nigeria's territorial integrity. Radical Islamist sect, Boko Haram, has been expanding and intensifying its more than three-year-old insurgency, while other criminal and ethnic militias increasingly target security forces.

    Boko Haram made its name with drive-by shootings and suicide bombings in northern Nigerian cities, and the capital Abuja. Targets were security installations, markets, churches and even the U.N. headquarters in Abuja in August 2011.

    Recent, high-profile raids against military and police in the far northeastern border towns of Baga and Bama, however, highlight what experts say are key shifts in the group's tactics and capabilities.

    Thriving terrorism

    Boko Haram Facts

    • Based in the northeastern city of Maiduguri
    • Began in 2002 as a non-violent Islamist splinter group
    • Launched uprising in 2009; leader was subsequently killed in police custody
    • Has killed hundreds in bombings and shootings since 2010
    • Boko Haram translates to "Western education is sinful"
    • Wants Nigeria to adopt strict Islamic law
    • Says it will kidnap women and children as part of its campaign
    • Has taken over parts of northeastern Nigeria
    ​Spokesman for the Joint Military Task Force [JTF] in Borno state, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa said, "There is literally a resurgence of terrorist activities in Borno State, mostly in the rural areas. We have observed the resurgence and where it is coming from and necessary measures are on to stop it and soon it will be stopped."

    But there is concern that Boko Haram is gaining the upper hand.  

    Analysts, human rights activists and northern residents say reported abuses against civilians and Boko Haram detainees by the Nigerian security forces have undercut cooperation and potentially fed recruitment into the sect.

    Reuters news agency reports that parts of Borno state have fallen under de-facto Boko Haram control.

    Residents of Maiduguri, like one retired soldier, said the militants have a local advantage.

    "It's a common knowledge. People have been saying that they are living within the forest ahead of area on the way to Monguno," he said. "Some people are saying that a large percentage of them are living within Bama forest. Some are saying they are in Sambisa and in Damboa having military trainings. To my mind, unless [there is] a serious concerted effort, and unless a very, very protracted intelligence gathering is embarked upon, we could say that the Boko Haram is winning the war."

    Shifting strategy

    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
    Nigeria analyst for the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, Jacob Zenn, said he has seen recent Boko Haram propaganda videos, not all of them made public, that indicate their freedom of movement.

    "It's amazing how they can just drive around and train in desert areas of northeastern Nigeria freely for a group that's supposedly being hotly pursued," he said.

    Zenn said the shift to more rural targets appears strategic.

    "It seems that Boko Haram has come under pressure in some of the major cities like Maiduguri, and is actually realizing that it is preferable for Boko Haram to operate in the rural areas where the government doesn't have too many forces. And there it can establish havens. It can train. It can keep hostages," said Zenn.

    Boko Haram only recently has entered the kidnapping business, something analysts say is further evidence of links forged with al Qaida's North Africa franchise, which along with two other militant Islamist groups, held northern Mali for 10 months before a French-led military intervention in January.

    Boko Haram's first major grab was a French family of seven from northern Cameroon in February. The family was released two months later, though the full terms of their release were not made public.

    Rampant kidnappings

    Boko Haram says it is now kidnapping local women and children in retaliation for the wives and children of their members who are being held by government and security officials.

    Sect leader Abubakar Shekau made the threat in the sect's most recent video, released May 13, which shows footage of a dozen unidentified women and children that he claims are hostages.

    Shekau said they will kidnap more. He said if they can't see their women and children, then no one will be allowed to enjoy his family. He said God allows them to consider all those they capture as slaves. And, he told security forces, If you think you can rescue them, then "we challenge you to try."

    Boko Haram continues to upgrade its weaponry and expand its capabilities.  

    The JTF said the Boko Haram raid in Bama on May 7 that killed 55 people - most of them police and security forces - was a brutal, multi-pronged attack by 200 militants who stormed the town with anti-aircraft guns mounted on vehicles.

    Experts say Boko Haram likely is obtaining weapons, ammunition and explosives from black-market channels flowing through the Sahel region, as well as seizing them from the Nigerian security forces.

    VOA obtained a Boko Haram propaganda video filmed after a March 3 raid against a military barracks in the northeastern town of Monguno.  

    In the video, a masked militant surrounded by fighters shows off an extensive display of what he says are arms and thousands of rounds of ammunition seized from the Monguno barracks. The camera pans over neatly laid out rows of heavy machine guns, rifles, RPGs and magazines, which the speaker calls the "bounty of God."

    An independent arms control expert examined the video and told VOA that the weapons shown are consistent with those known to be in the Nigerian military arsenal.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora