Boko Haram ma­jor test for leader

The new Nige­rian pres­i­dent’s goal of de­feat­ing the mil­i­tant group will be dif­fi­cult to achieve; at­tacks con­tinue un­abated.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Robyn Dixon robyn.dixon@la­times.com

JO­HAN­NES­BURG, South Africa — A se­ries of bomb­ing at­tacks in north­east­ern Nige­ria— the lat­est at a mar­ket in the town of Jimeta that killed as many as 45— seem de­signed to send an omi­nous mes­sage to the na­tion’s new pres­i­dent, Muham­madu Buhari: Boko Haramis not go­ing away.

Buhari has made de­feat of the Is­lamist mil­i­tant group his top pri­or­ity, but the con­tin­ued vi­o­lence, on nearly a daily ba­sis, un­der­scores how dif­fi­cult it is for an un­wieldy, of­ten in­ef­fec­tual, mil­i­tary force such as Nige­ria’s army to pre­vent ruth­less at­tacks on civil­ian tar­gets by nim­ble ex­trem­ists.

More than 60 peo­ple have been killed in at­tacks in the week since Buhari took of­fice.

In the at­tack Thurs­day night in the Adamawa state town of Jimeta, a bomb was left in a tri­cy­cle taxi, which are com­mon in north east­ern Nige­ria. Though no one im­me­di­ately claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity, it re­sem­bled previous at­tacks by Boko Haram.

Theat­tack at the pop­u­lar Jimeta night mar­ket came shortly af­ter a fe­male sui­cide bomber killed two peo­ple at a check­point in Maiduguri. Au­thor­i­ties said the Jimeta death toll was 45, with 40 in­jured, but other re­ports put the fa­tal­i­ties at 31.

Boko Haram, a com­mon name for the group, re­cently named it­self Is­lamic State in West Africa af­ter pledg­ing al­le­giance to Is­lamic State, and its aim has long been to es­tab­lish Is­lamist rule in Nige­ria.

The group con­quered a large slice of north­east­ern Nige­ria last year, but Nige­ria’s mil­i­tary, with the help of armies from neigh­bor­ing coun­tries and for­eign merce­nar­ies, re­cently drove them out of sev­eral towns and vil­lages.

Boko Haram still boasts that it com­mands a large area of the dense Sam­bisa For­est, near the bor­der of Cameroon. An­a­lysts say flush­ing the in­sur­gents out of the for­est will be dif­fi­cult.

Buhari has an­nounced that the mil­i­tary’s com­mand cen­ter will be moved from Abuja, the cap­i­tal, to the front line city of Maiduguri, say­ing the bat­tle against Boko Haram can­not be won from dis­tant Abuja.

He has also vis­ited his coun­ter­parts in neigh­bor­ing Chad and Niger, his first for­eign trips as pres­i­dent, send in games sage of greater re­gional unity in the fight against the mil­i­tant group.

Buhari has also vowed to leave no stone un­turned in in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions last week by Amnesty In­ter­na­tional that Nige­rian mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity forces were re­spon­si­ble for the deaths in re­cent years of more than 8,000 men and boys sus­pected of be­ing linked to Boko Haram. About 1,200 were shot down in the streets or killed in cap­tiv­ity, and 7,000 who were de­tained died in hor­ren­dous con­di­tions in­volv­ing tor­ture and de­nial of wa­ter and food for days, ac­cord­ing to the rights group.

Crit­ics say abuses by the Nige­rian se­cu­rity forces have fu­eled sup­port for Boko Haram, and hu­man rights groups have called for mea­sures to pun­ish those re­spon­si­ble, while also call­ing on Boko Haram to stop tar­get­ing civil­ians.

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