Boko Haram Attacks on the Rise

Gunmen believed to be from the militant group Boko Haram reportedly killed three in the village of Izghe in Nigeria’s Borno state, and burned the village to the ground. This comes only a week after an attack on the village, again believed to have been perpetrated by Boko Haram militants, left over a hundred dead and numerous structures demolished.  The attack on Izghe is also the second in as many months where Boko Haram militants have been accused of completely wiping out a village in Borno state.

Map released by AFRICOM in its 2013 posture statement showing the approximate areas and density of Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria in 2012.

Map released by AFRICOM in its 2013 posture statement showing the approximate areas and density of Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria in 2012. One can clearly see that the country’s northeast has been at the center of the violence.

Borno state and the northeast of Nigeria broadly have seen the bulk of the fighting with the Islamist Boko Haram and their splinter factions after the group turned to violence in 2009. Officials in Borno state have accused the country’s central government of failing to treat the insurgency as a serious threat. President Goodluck Jonathan did declare a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states last year, which was followed by a surge of violence as the country’s security forces attempted to deal a decisive blow to Islamist fighters.

However, the campaign appears to have stalled out. In January, President Jonathan reshuffled the country’s defense leadership. The sacking of the Chief of the Defense Staff and numerous service chiefs was seen as being linked to the failure to stem the Boko Haram violence. It was also announced that Nigerian would establish a Nigerian Army Special Operations Command (NASOC), which would have countering internal threats like Boko Haram among its missions. The US is said to be helping with this effort and has a history of cooperation with the country’s military. Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that the US remains “a committed partner of the Government of Nigeria” in the face of the recent violence.

Little has come of this so far. Last week, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau made the bold threat that his group was planning to attack oil interests and leadership figures, both official and in communities, who opposed his demands. The country’s oil interests are located in the Niger River Delta region, effectively at the opposite end of the country from Boko Haram’s current stronghold.

Izghe is also near the border with Cameroon, further evidence that the problem may be affecting Nigeria’s neighbors. Cameroon has found itself wedged between a number of crises, without necessarily having the resources to tackle the spillover. Security forces in Cameroon have been working to stop arms trafficking that may be supporting the Nigerian insurgency. The porous border remains a problem, however, and the Nigerian government announced yesterday that it was sealing its border with Cameroon to prevent fighters from fleeing there. It remains to be seen if either country has the resources necessary to enforce this closure.

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