Boko Haram at­tacks with ease

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

ABUJA — A wave of at­tacks across north­ern Nige­ria, in­clud­ing two on Mon­day — a sui­cide bombing at a mar­ket and an as­sault on se­cu­rity fa­cil­i­ties — showed that the Is­lamist ter­ror­ist group Boko Haram re­mained able to strike at will in the re­gion, es­pe­cially against civil­ian tar­gets.

The most re­cent at­tacks at­trib­uted to the group oc­curred in Maiduguri and Da­maturu, state cap­i­tals in the north­east. Boko Haram, which has its roots in the area, has struck those ci­ties re­peat­edly over the past five years.

The at­tacks fol­lowed a bombing on Fri­day in a cen­tral mosque in Kano, the prin­ci­pal city of north­ern Nige­ria; 120 peo­ple were killed in that at­tack.

It was not clear yet on Mon­day evening how many peo­ple were killed in Maiduguri, where women det­o­nated sui­cide bombs in the city’s big­gest mar­ket.

A sim­i­lar bombing by two women last Tues­day killed at least 45 peo­ple.

Wit­nesses said that de­spite that ear­lier at­tack, no troops were guard­ing the mar­ket on Mon­day.

The Nige­rian Army has re­peat­edly been crit­i­cised for its ret­i­cence in con­fronting the Is­lamist mil­i­tants, and when mil­i­tary per­son­nel ar­rived at the scene after the ex­plo­sions on Mon­day, they were shouted down by angry youths and told to leave, wit­nesses said.

The Da­maturu at­tack was a raid by Boko Haram on mil­i­tary, po­lice and gov­ern­ment fa­cil­i­ties that be­gan be­fore dawn. Res­i­dents cow­ered in­doors all morn­ing while gun­fire rang out, wit­nesses said.

The mil­i­tants were even­tu­ally driven out, with the aid of a Nige­rian mil­i­tary jet, but not be­fore they burned what re­mained of a po­lice fa­cil­ity that was at­tacked and dam­aged a year ago.

The at­tack­ers also tried to reach Gov­ern­ment House, the seat of the Yobe State gov­ern­ment in Da­maturu.

The Boko Haram fight­ers, who ob­tain most of their weapons by seiz­ing them from the Nige­rian mil­i­tary, ap­peared to be try­ing to get mil­i­tary equip­ment stock­piled in the city.

Of­fi­cials and wit­nesses said the raid had failed, though the gun­fire went on for hours. “The se­cu­rity ef­fort is still on­go­ing,” a spokesman for the Yobe State gov­er­nor said in a state­ment Mon­day af­ter­noon.

The bombing in Maiduguri was ap­par­ently car­ried out by two women wear­ing tra­di­tional Mus­lim cloth­ing.

Wit­nesses said one woman in a hi­jab car­ry­ing a bun­dle was stopped and ques­tioned by civil­ian vig­i­lantes as she ap­proached a busy area where chicken ven­dors have their stalls.

The vig­i­lantes in­sisted on check­ing her bun­dle, and as she protested and shop­pers gath­ered to see what was go­ing on, she det­o­nated two bombs.

A sec­ond woman who was en­ter­ing a shop at the mar­ket at that time det­o­nated another ex­plo­sive, wit­nesses said.

“There were two women, both of them dressed in Mus­lim hi­jab,” said Yaqub Isa, a trader at the mar­ket who saw what hap­pened and nar­rowly es­caped be­ing wounded by the ex­plo­sions.

“While the first one was be­ing in­ter­ro­gated,” Mr. Isa said, “the sec­ond one sneaked into a nearby shop.”

The po­lice at first said that only a half-dozen peo­ple had been killed, but wit­nesses re­ported see­ing many more bod­ies.

The Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties rou­tinely un­der­state ca­su­al­ties in their re­ports.

A worker at Maiduguri Spe­cial­ist Hos­pi­tal said 25 wounded peo­ple and 16 corpses had been brought there.

The two at­tacks on Mon­day ap­peared to be part of the grim drum­beat of vi­o­lence mounted almost daily by Boko Haram.

By con­trast, the at­tack on Fri­day in the Kano mosque was ex­cep­tional, both for its high death toll and for its sym­bolic por­tent.

The mosque is next to the palace of the emir of Kano, one of the high­est-rank­ing fig­ures in Nige­rian Is­lam. Kano is one of Africa’s largest pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim ci­ties, and it is out­side the usual zone of Boko Haram at­tacks.

The emir — Lamido Sanusi, a for­mer gov­er­nor of the coun­try’s cen­tral bank — has been out­spo­ken in his crit­i­cism of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in Abuja, the cap­i­tal.

He re­cently urged cit­i­zens to de­fend them­selves against Boko Haram, in the ab­sence of an ef­fec­tive mil­i­tary.

The Nige­rian gov­ern­ment’s se­cu­rity strat­egy has shifted fre­quently and re­mains un­cer­tain.

On Mon­day, the Amer­i­can Em­bassy in Abuja said Nige­ria had can­celled an agree­ment pro­vid­ing for con­tin­ued Amer­i­can train­ing of a Nige­rian bat­tal­ion, ex­press­ing re­gret for the “pre­ma­ture ter­mi­na­tion”.

Amer­i­can as­sis­tance to Nige­ria has been sharply limited by Amer­i­can le­gal pro­hi­bi­tions against close deal­ings with for­eign mil­i­taries that have en­gaged in hu­man-rights abuses.

Wash­ing­ton has re­fused to pro­vide weapons and equip­ment the Nige­rian mil­i­tary wants.

Those lim­its have, in turn, been sharply crit­i­cised by Nige­rian of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the coun­try’s am­bas­sador to the United States.

Nige­ria was once a prin­ci­pal source of Amer­i­can crude oil im­ports, but with the United States’ boom in do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion, Nige­ria’s strate­gic im­por­tance has faded some­what, an­a­lysts said.

— NY Times

Bomb squad ex­perts and se­cu­rity per­son­nel in­spect bike wreck­ages at a scene of mul­ti­ple bomb­ings at the Kano Cen­tral mosque on Sun­day.

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