ABUJA — Nigerian police report 60 people were killed early Wednesday when insurgents attacked a town in northern Nigeria. Witnesses blamed militant group Boko Haram, which has issued a new threat to bomb oil refineries and kill prominent Muslim clerics.
The fishing town of Bama has been attacked four times in the past two years. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of houses have been burned to the ground.
As reports filtered in Wednesday that gunmen in Bama were once again shooting people and setting homes on fire, Boko Haram released a video statement saying it plans to widen its reach, to attack oil refineries in the south and continue its assault on Muslim clerics that don’t agree with its harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
Analysts say Boko Haram’s continued threats and attacks are a sign that the Nigerian government has failed to stop the more than four-year-old insurgency, despite nine months of emergency rule in three northeastern states.
Femi Odekunle, a professor of criminology at the University of Abuja, says,
“The government must double its efforts with more men and more resources to contain them and to prevent them from spreading to other parts of the country.”
In the video statement, the self-proclaimed leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, also claimed responsibility for killing Sheik Adam Albani, a prominent Muslim cleric and known critic of the insurgent group.
The Nigerian military says it is beating Boko Haram and that the recent increase in attacks signifies increased desperation among insurgents. Chief of Army Staff Kenneth Minimah told troops in the north this week that security challenges in Nigeria are “not insurmountable.”
But Odekunle says the Boko Haram threat needs more than a military response.
Most Nigerians live in abject poverty. High unemployment and lack of education leave a lot of young men willing to fight because they have no other way to survive.
“The government needs to address the social order issues, which constitute of economic and educational issues that are underlying the emergence and sustenance of Boko Haram,” said Odekunle.
Odekunle says Nigeria has the physical might to beat Boko Haram, but not necessarily the political will. In the meantime, he doesn’t think Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of people in northern Nigeria, has the capacity to attack southern oil refineries.
But A.B. Umar, a former Navy captain, says recent attacks in the north show the group has far more support than is generally believed.
“How are they able to go to airport and attack the airport with all the checkpoints of the military and the police?" he asked. " How are they able to go in to the barracks and attack the barracks with all the checkpoints?”
It is not clear who is financing Boko Haram, but they are obviously well-funded, Umar says. And as improbable as it might seem to southerners who have been free from Boko Haram attacks, he believes they may have the equipment and resources to expand.
Abdulkareem Haruna contributed to this report from Maduguri, Ardo hazzad contributed to this report from Bauchi