Yesterday, militants believed to belong to the Boko Haram extremist group attacked Kawuri village in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state. Fifty-two people were killed. In addition, three hundred buildings were destroyed, constituting the bulk of the village’s dwellings. Militants also placed improvised explosive devices that were triggered today as security forces began to try and account for the dead. Another attack, in Waga Chakawa village in Adamawa state, was also reported today.
The attacks comes as Nigeria continues to step up its campaign against Boko Haram and other Islamist militant groups, which may have become regional franchises of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. Nigeria established what it called the Joint Task Force in 2011 in response to increasing violence from the Boko Haram group. The fight against the group and other Islamists has since expanded into a larger campaign involving things like air strikes. However, the Joint Task Force has been accused of human rights violations during these operations and the government may not be entirely pleased itself with the results of the campaign. Two weeks ago, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan reshuffled the leadership of the country’s defense forces, appointing a new Chief of the Defense Staff, as well as new chief of staffs for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Operations against Boko Haram have been characterized largely by escalating violence, and little else, as the group expands its attacks outside of the country, including into neighboring Cameroon.
This was followed by reports last week that the country had established the Nigerian Army Special Operations Command (NASOC), with US assistance, indicating that the military may be increasingly looking to take over internal counter-terrorism efforts. It is likely that NASOC would not only be concerned with Boko Haram and its splinter factions in the country’s restive north, but also the festering insurgency being conducted by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). MEND just today claimed responsibility for an attack on a patrol boat on a waterway in Bayelsa state. However, the finer points of any new strategy to be conducted by NASOC, or other elements of Nigeria’s security forces, remain vague. NASOC’s will also require the creation of new units to carry out its mission, further delaying the implementation, at least on their part, of a new effort. It may be some time in the end before there is any hint of a change in Nigeria’s internal security campaign.