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.
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.