Gunmen on motorcycles bombed a police station and as many as three banks in Kaduna State in Nigeria on Wednesday night. The attacks come two days after a man claiming to be a leader of Islamist militants known as Boko Haram announced a unilateral truce.
On a scratchy phone line from the town of Birnin Gwari, Abdulkadir Muhammed, a secondary school teacher, described the scene.
He said gunmen blew into town on motorcycles, firing their weapons and tossing bombs. He said the police station was flattened and as many as three banks, which were closed at the time, were bombed and robbed.
Officially the gunmen are ‘bandits’ but Sheihu Sani, the head of the Civil Rights Congress, a human rights organization in northern Nigeria, says the attacks resemble the work of Boko Haram.
“The attack on the police stations in Birnin Gwari and the attacks on banks follows the same pattern of how the insurgents operate in the northern part of Nigeria," said Sani. "And this thing just happened yesterday. It’s a clear indication that the so-called ceasefire that was announced in Borno State was actually a sham.”
On Monday, a purported Boko Haram commander, Sheik Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez, announced that Boko Haram had declared a unilateral ceasefire to pave the way for peace talks. Sani says it is not clear that Abdulazeez has the authority to speak for the group.
“First of all, this same Abdulazeez made a similar claim about three to four months ago of a ceasefire and after the proclamation of that ceasefire a retired military general was killed and also a church was bombed in Kaduna," said Sani. "What is very clear is that a ceasefire that is binding, effective and credible should be announced by the leader of the group.”
Boko Haram began violent operations in 2009, and it has killed an estimated 3,000 people in attacks on churches, schools, government and newspaper offices, security forces, markets and the communications infrastructure.
Human rights groups have accused security forces of killing hundreds more in operations to subdue the militant group. Most of the violence has been in northern Nigeria.
Kaduna is in a region of the north that is also called the “middle belt” because it divides Nigeria’s Muslim majority north from the Christian majority south. Sectarian violence has long plagued the middle belt, including frequent church bombings and reprisal attacks.
Last October, 20 people were gunned down in the town of Birnin Gwari as they were leaving a mosque.