News / Africa

Nigeria Violence Surges After Military Declares Imminent Victory

Residents stand on January 14, 2014 near a burning car in Maiduguri moments after at least 17 people were killed when an explosion ripped through a busy market in the mostly Muslim city in northeast Nigeria.
Residents stand on January 14, 2014 near a burning car in Maiduguri moments after at least 17 people were killed when an explosion ripped through a busy market in the mostly Muslim city in northeast Nigeria.
Heather Murdock
Violence has surged in northeastern Nigeria less than a week after new military leaders declared they would end a four-year-old insurgency by April.  Some analysts say the attacks signify that a fresh military approach alone will not end the fighting. 

Last week, Nigeria’s new chief of defense staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, said the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria would be over by April, before the state of emergency in three states expires.  The war, he said, is “already won.”

Then, on Sunday and Monday, more than 70 people were killed in two brutal attacks. 

Major attacks blamed on Nigeria's Boko Haram
  • July - Attacks prompt government crackdown in Bauchi and Maiduguri; 800 people killed
  • December - Bombings in central Nigeria and church attacks in the northeast kill 86
  • 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
  • January -- Gun and bomb attacks in Kano kill 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
  • 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 a dorm in Yobe
  • October - Attack Yobe state capital Damaturu, clash with military in Borno state
Haruna Musa Ahmed, a bystander on one street in Kaduna, a northern city that has been the scene of many Boko Haram attacks, says when the government threatens Boko Haram, the militant group fights harder.

“That is why they take that attack on the weekend.  To tell him that they cannot deliver so let him go and change to another strategy,” he said.

The recent attacks, on a market in Borno state and a Catholic church in Adamawa, have prompted renewed calls for peace talks.  Shehu Sani, the president of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, says insurgents have adapted to military rule, making them difficult to defeat.

“They were able to survive it.  Now they have reorganized themselves and are launching attacks from different places.  So now we have to find another way of solving the problem,” Sani said.

Last year, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan created a “dialogue committee” to set up peace talks with Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group that has killed thousands of people in the past few years in attacks on churches, mosques, schools, market places, villages and on the government.

Sani says a lasting solution to the crisis must include development in the region, where the economy is in shambles and most people have barely enough food, shelter and health care to survive.  
He adds that peace talks have not yet been successful.

“The dialogue committee made claims of meeting with the insurgents and the dialogue committee made claims of arriving at a ceasefire with the insurgents,which has been consistently dismissed by the insurgents," Sani said.

Critics say any peace talks with Boko Haram are bound to fail because it is a fractured group without a clear leadership structure.  Even if one part of the group agrees to a ceasefire, they say, another part may fight on.

Boko Haram says it wants to impose its harsh version of Islamic law on Nigeria but observers say many of the fighters are unemployed young men with no other income.

Political consultant Fabian Ihekweme says the president is developing a new strategy to end the insurgency, which included replacing the entire military leadership earlier this month.

“He is coming up with a different security approach to tackle the menace.  And it is also good that he uses different men in doing that,” Ihekweme said.

But on the streets of Kaduna, some locals say it is not different men that are needed, but more men. 

“The number of police we have are too small," aid worker Idris Inuwa said. "The number of security we have are too small.  They are not up to the number we are supposed to have in this country.”

Human Rights Groups have criticized the Nigerian military, saying it has killed hundreds of people in operations against Boko Haram and arrested hundreds more without charges.

The Nigerian military denies these accusations, saying the Boko Haram war is constantly changing and while they work hard to adapt, no country in the world to date has been entirely successful at ending terrorism.  

Ibrahima Yakubu contributed to this report from Kaduna

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs