— The Nigerian militant Islamist sect Boko Haram is blamed for more than 750 deaths in 2012, making it the group's bloodiest year, with attacks on churches, schools, government buildings, media centers, markets, security forces and communications networks.
The building was the office of ThisDay, a prominent Nigerian newspaper. While a suicide bomber rammed a car into the building, an accomplice stood by with a camera, later posting the destruction on YouTube.
Rosemary Ufayo Lawani was working at her store nearby when she heard the blast. Her building shook and she saw flames and smoke. Since then, she says she has been kept afraid by constant news of bombings, executions and gunmen firing at civilians.
She said, "We are afraid because we think 'anytime.' We are not really sleeping with our two eyes closed. Everybody is sleeping with one eye, thinking, 'Where is going to be the next place to attack?'"
At the beginning of the year, the group boasted ties to al-Qaida, but many people thought Boko Haram was inflating its image. But after so many attacks in 2012, analysts generally agree that Boko Haram has operational ties with other militant groups, like al-Qaida, al-Shabab and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
Clement Nwankwo, executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Nigeria, says that if Boko Haram joins forces with Islamist militants controlling most of Mali, governments across West Africa could be in danger.
“It’s an international problem. I think that if the Nigerian government were to be serious about curtailing this, then it would actually need to work with the various international moves to end terrorism - not just in Africa, but worldwide," he said.
Boko Haram communicates with the public through YouTube, blocked telephone lines and hard to trace emails. At least twice this year, the government has reported that the group's “spokesperson” was killed. Boko Haram says he is still alive.
Sa’ad Abdulmumin, a Muslim missionary, says Boko Haram attacks are inflaming sectarian violence that has killed thousands of people during the past decade.
“It has segmented the people of religions into cleavages between the Christians and the Muslims, and it has generated the hatred and animosity.”
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has urged the United States, which has classified three Boko Haram members as international terrorists, to help Nigeria find “lasting solutions to these problems.”