The Threat of Boko Haram and the recent spate of suicide attacks in Nigeria


On 13th November, when ISIS militants unleashed a night of terror in Paris killing 130 people, the world’s response has focused extensively on French president Francis Hollande, and his efforts to unite both pro, and anti Assad forces in waging the war against ISIS. In the light of such rhetoric an equally nefarious terrorist attack, targeting a popular market in the Nigerian city of Yola on 18th November, largely escaped the lenses of the western media.

Nigeria’s notorious Islamist militant group Boko Haram which has pledged its allegiance to ISIS, calling itself IS’s “Western African Province,” has been blamed for this suicide attack which killed 32 civilians and wounded 80 others. Boko Haram promotes the ideology that Muslims are forbidden from participating in any political or social activity associated with Western society, labeling them as “Haram.” They have been waging military operations against the Nigerian govt from 2009 onwards increasingly targeting civilians, government and military officers. Apparently according to news reports1 it has killed more civilians than ISIS and has been increasingly labelled as the world’s deadliest terror group. In August, 2014 Boko Haram declared the areas it controlled in North Nigeria as well as surrounding areas of Niger and Southern Cameroon as an Islamic caliphate.

Amidst little success, successive Nigerian governments have tried to employ tactics which are the combination of dialogue and Military action to contain the insurgency threat. The enormity of Boko Haram’s abomination grabbed international headlines when the group kidnapped 276 female students on the night of 14th April ,2014 from government secondary school in the town of Chibok in Borno .The International response was unanimous in condemning the heinous act and resulted in dispatch of specialists officers from US, UK, France and other members of the International community. Boko Haram was declared as a terrorist organisation by majority of international community by November 2013. The Chibok Kidnappings showcased the ineffective strategy and the vulnerability of the Nigerian population to attacks from Boko Haram .The resulting enragement of the international community over Chibok kidnappings necessitated need for a new strategy to combat Boko Haram’s menace.

This strategy involved increased cooperation with neighboring countries, improved training by foreign specialists, joint offensive with battle-hardened troops from neighboring Chad as well as troops from Nigeria and Cameroon. The depleted morale of the Nigerian troops suffering early battle reverses, received a much required boost with the purchase of critical war material, including state of the art tanks, armored cars and helicopter gunships. In an effort to supplement the military, many mercenaries belonging to Private military firms in South Africa and Russia were deployed in insurgent affected areas of North eastern Nigeria during the elections in March-April 2015. As witnessed earlier with former President Goodluck Jonathan’s ability to declare a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states; increased political consensus enabled the new President, the former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, to take a tough stance in combating the menace of Boko Haram. He reiterated the need for combined will to defeat Boko Haram; and targeted the rampant corruption in the military. This enabled an intensive military action by  the Military which managed to push Boko Haram out of major cities – dealing a severe blow to the terrorist organisation. However  the militant organisation managed to reorganize themselves in the Sambisa forest of Borno State in North East Nigeria, using the area as their operational base, to continue to carry out cross border raids in neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

In continuance of the International efforts to defeat Boko Haram the international community has started training Cameroon troops; and the increased cooperation between Cameroon and Nigerian army has resulted in increased intelligence gathering and sharing. US has deployed surveillance drones and special operation forces to train African soldiers in Cameroon.

The latest spates of suicides attacks targeting civilians is still reminiscent of the threat of Boko Haram and their capabilities. With the new found momentum complimented by the new Nigerian regime’s willingness, through a collective will and collaborative effort from the West African nations and International community, should eliminate the peril of Boko Haram, and herald the much needed rebuilding process in the areas affected by insurgency.

 

1.Huffington Post :11/18/2015 “Boko Haram Actually Kills More People In Terror Attacks Than ISIS”//www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/boko-haramisis_564cd890e4b00b7997f8c15d?section=australia&adsSiteOverride=au