On The Margins Of The Maiduguri Attack– Global Concern Grows Over Islamic State’s West African Province

On 10th May 2016, at least four people were killed in Maiduguri, in northeastern Borno state in Nigeria. The number of dead is currently unconfirmed. Reuters reported that at least five were killed and 19 injured. The Nigerian Vanguard claimed that only two police officials who guarded the gates of the government compound were left dead. The Islamic States West African Province (ISWA) has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Formerly known as Boko Haram, the West African terrorist group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in 2015. This spring, members of the group affirmed their loyalty to their leader, Abubakar Shekau and IS’s head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In their loyalty-assuring speech, an ISWA spokesman concluded that they envisioned regional attacks, claiming they would fight their enemies in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and the Niger border. Like ISIS in the Middle East, ISWA has seized significant territories in West Africa and claimed its own caliphate. However, military forces have recently managed to take back a significant share of it.

In a recent report by The Long War Journal, Bill Roggio and Caleb West shed light on the use of women and children in suicide attacks by ISWA. They claim that more than 105 women were used in deadly bombings. According to the report,

“the use of women make it easier for jihadist groups to carry out suicide attacks, as explosives are often easier to hide, and men are less likely to search women due to cultural sensitivities.”

Some of these attacks were carried out outside of Nigeria, which is worsening regional instability.

In mid-May, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari welcomed counterparts from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. French President Francois Hollande is also attending the event in Abuja, along with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. President Hollande expressed his concerns regarding the threat Boko Haram still poses to the region. While foreign secretary Hammond added that

“we must maintain the momentum to win the war, and build the right conditions for post-conflict stability in the region.”

In the meantime, senior U.S. official Blinken worried about the cooperation between IS and ISWA, fearing that the latter would send fighters to Libya to support IS’s operation. He said there were reports of material and logistical assistance between the two groups. IS has already seized territories in North Africa (in Libya) and in the Middle East (in Syria and Iraq). It is feared that ISWA’s support will help them to gain more areas.

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 to fight Western-styled education. Even its name means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language. Its military operations began in 2009. Since then, they have killed around 20,000 people, including civilians and policemen. As a result of the group’s insurgency, two million people have left their homes for survival. ISWA is also held responsible for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls.