Written by Sudarsan Raghavan
Saturday, 01 June 2013 00:22
The Islamist insurgency in northern Nigeria has entered a more violent phase as militants return to the fight with sophisticated weapons and tactics learned on the battlefields of nearby Mali, Nigerian officials and analysts say.
Hundreds of people have died this year in bombings, shootings and clashes with security forces in this vast region of the country, where the militant group Boko Haram seeks to overthrow the government and install an ultraconservative brand of Islam.
The militants, who traveled to northern Mali last year to join the fight there, have returned with heavy weapons from Libya, presumably from former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s arsenal. Malian militants also used weapons smuggled in from Libya to seize northern Mali last year.
Boko Haram and an even more radical splinter faction known as Ansaru are also kidnapping Westerners and killing anyone they deem a threat — tactics used by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, the terror network’s West and North Africa affiliate, which helped overrun northern Mali last year. “Boko Haram’s level of audacity was high in the last three or four months. It was exactly after the attacks in Mali,” said a senior local government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to comment on security matters. “They were never as audacious as they suddenly became.”
The stepped-up violence is the latest sign that the conflict in northern Mali is spilling into neighboring countries as Islamist militancy spreads across the region. Last week, suicide bombers in Niger targeted an army barracks and a French-operated uranium mine, killing 26 people and injuring dozens more. Both AQIM and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, an al-Qaeda spinoff in northern Mali, asserted responsibility, saying the attacks were revenge for a four-month-old French-led military intervention in Mali.
France has begun withdrawing some of its forces from Mali, having ousted AQIM and other radical Islamists from towns in the north. Since then, the militants have launched a guerrilla war, orchestrating a campaign of suicide attacks and roadside bombings. U.N. and regional government officials say Boko Haram and Ansaru fighters traveled to northern Mali to train in AQIM camps and fight alongside the jihadists. In early March, Boko Haram fighters in pickup trucks mounted with heavy guns targeted an army barracks in Nigeria’s Borno state, the militia’s birthplace.
A few days later, Nigerian soldiers raiding a Boko Haram base found more vehicles that had been transformed into fighting machines, suggesting that Boko Haram “has already learned new methods of fighting from the Islamist militants in Mali,” Jacob Zenn, a West Africa analyst, wrote in the CTC Sentinel, the publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
“Even if France and its West African allies have driven AQIM out of northern Mali, Ansaru and Boko Haram are likely self-sustainable and able to continue attacks.”
Since the death of its leader in police custody in 2009, Boko Haram has carried out more than 700 assaults on police stations, government buildings, mosques and schools in its stronghold of Maiduguri and across the north, killing an estimated 3,000 people. The militia’s name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language, and it has publicly praised Osama bin Laden.
In January 2012, hard-line members who opposed the militia’s killing of Muslims defected and launched Ansaru. The group began kidnapping foreigners and forged close ties to AQIM, according to analysts. In January 2013, Ansaru militants ambushed three buses of Nigerian soldiers en route to help the French intervention in northern Mali, killing two soldiers and injuring several others.
By late last year, though, Boko Haram had spread its own ambitions, and some cells appeared to be shifting toward AQIM and Ansaru’s strategy. In February, the militia launched its first cross-border operation, kidnapping a French family of seven in Cameroon and holding them in Nigeria, its first abduction of foreigners. The group said the kidnapping was in response to the French military action in Mali. The family was freed in April after a $3 million ransom was paid, according to the Reuters news agency, although the French and Cameroon governments have denied the reports.
In mid-May, the militia asserted responsibility for its first large-scale incursions. In a May 7 attack on Bama, about 44 miles from Maiduguri, Boko Haram fighters stormed an army base, a police station and government buildings, killing at least 55. The fighters attacked with vehicles mounted with machine guns, similar to the attacks by northern Malian militants.
In a video, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said his fighters had kidnapped women and children and would treat them as “slaves” in retaliation for the arrests of its members’ wives and children by Nigerian security forces.
The attack on Bama came a few weeks after Boko Haram fighters targeted a military patrol in Baga, a nearby town. Nigerian security forces retaliated by raiding the town, accusing residents of aiding the militants. About 200 people were killed and parts of the town were razed, prompting human rights groups to accuse the military of using excessive force and carrying out extrajudicial killings. Such allegations, which the military denies, have repeatedly arisen over the past three years.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan stepped up the fight against the Islamists by declaring a state of emergency on May 14 in three northern states, including Borno, of which Maiduguri is the capital. Nigeria has also asked Niger to help in the offensive, underscoring its concern that Boko Haram is trafficking in arms and being helped by foreigners.
Cellphone and Internet networks have been cut to prevent the militants from communicating. In some areas of Maiduguri, the heart of the insurgency, a dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed. Long lines of vehicles wait at military checkpoints manned by soldiers across the city.
Human rights activists have warned of abuses amid reports of deaths in rural areas and mass arrests in Maiduguri. An estimated 2,400 people have fled to Niger, according to a statement released last week by the International Committee of the Red Cross. “Definitely, there will be human rights violations,” said Babangida Labaran Usman, a senior investigation officer with Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission. “Definitely, innocent people will be killed.”
Nigerian military officials say those being targeted are Boko Haram militants, but Western governments and international human rights organizations have also expressed concern. Secretary of State John F. Kerry recently called on Nigeria to uphold human rights as it tries to quell Boko Haram. Usman warned that an increase in violations could lead more people to join Boko Haram and Ansaru. “These attacks provoke people, if they have the opportunity, to join the insurgency.”
Written by Nigeria Newsday
Thursday, 19 May 2011 14:14
Though Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned his post as the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the controversies trailing his arrest are just beginning. Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn faces charges of criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment of an African immigrant who worked as a maid at Sofitel Hotel suite in New York where Mr. Strauss-Kahn was staying.
Written by NigeriaNewsday,Detroit
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 08:18
Although the Independent observers of Nigeria’s general elections have given more than just a pass mark to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the relatively smooth conduct of the process, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) has continued to cry wolf. It believes that the presidential and indeed subsequent elections, conducted in the country were far from being free and fair.
In the North, hundreds of lives and property worth billions of Naira were destroyed in the carnage that followed the presidential elections in which the CPC and its flag bearer, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, lost.
Although that could in no way be compared to the ruling People’s Democratic Party’s ‘landslide’ victory across the country, the Buhari’s CPC had a good outing in the North where he hails from, thus meeting the 25 per cent requirement in 19 out of the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Yet, discontent prevailed as INEC declared President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP winner of the fairly peaceful elections.
Having shown itself strong in the Presidential battle, the CPC was expected to “capture” at least 80 per cent of the states in the North during the governorship and state House of Assembly Elections. But its supporters were met with disappointment. Buhari’s party was only able to win one of the Northern states (Nasarawa) paving the way for the PDP to have a smooth ride across the northern states.
Already, Buhari and the CPC have taken their complaints to the Election Tribunal asking it to investigate and possibly annul elections in 24 states.
Observers say that one of the factors that swayed the tide in favour of the ruling party during the governorship elections is lack of effective political structure and low literacy level in Buhari’s support base, the North. Most of the almajiris, who adore the former military head of state and were ready to lay down their lives for him, were political ill-informed.
Buhari, as a strong personality, was driving the fortunes of the party. There is the popular belief that the opposition was more interested in the presidential election, believing that Buhari would have won the presidential election. When he lost, the eagerness was watered down.
Apart from the unrests that erupted in the North, following the declaration of Jonathan as President-elect, the there were reports that some supporters tore and burnt theirs voter cards out of anger when INEC did not announce their preferred presidential candidate as winner. Besides, the violence believed not to have been clearly condemned by the CPC could have cast it in bad light as a ‘crisis party,” as people who ordinarily would have voted for it made a u-turn for the winning side.
However, there are other factors. In Katsina, Buhari’s home state, for instance, the CPC’s original candidate lost out his candidature to former Speaker of The Federal House of Representatives, Aminu Bello Masari, in court process. Lando Darmaike’s factor alone was said to have made CPC prevail against the PDP and the ANPP in Kastina, claiming the whole senatorial seats as well as the highest number of votes in presidential election. But since he is a major factor in Katsina politics, he worked against his own party, asking his numerous supporters to vote for the PDP, when shortly before the governorship elections, the court stopped him in his tracks.
A journalist in Katsina told Nigeria Newsday that “the man now came out to thank his supporters and told them to vote for the PDP candidate.”
In Kaduna State, the late-hour resolution of the conflict within the PDP in the state became the greatest undoing of the opposition. Suleiman Ikunyi, a Muslim governorship candidate of the PDP had had a running battle with Governor Yakowa also of The PDP. Discontented with the party’s refusal to deny the governor the 2011 shot at the seat of power, he played a major role during the National Assembly and presidential elections dragging his party to its knees. The result was that not only did the PDP lose critical votes in both elections, Vice President Namadi Sambo embarrassingly failed to deliver victory to his boss from his (Sambo’s) polling booths.
A dramatic twist that brought about reconciliation between the Governor and Suleiman three days to the rescheduled governorship election in the crisis-torn state, therefore, gave victory to the PDP. Suleiman was said to have asked his supporters from the 13 local government councils, who are predominantly Muslims, to vote for the PDP. Governor hails from the Christian Southern Kaduna.
Because he is actually in touch with the locals, Suleiman had played a major role during the National Assembly and presidential elections, supporting the CPC to victory. His factor alone made PDP lose in both elections.
“Therefore, in the presidential election, we were not surprised to hear that PDP was leading in the northern part of Kaduna,” a Kaduna based journalist told Nigeria Newsday.
Written by Nigeria Politics Daily
Tuesday, 03 May 2011 11:11
Today, the 3rd of May is the World Press Freedom Day. It is a day to remember the trials and triumphs of those men and women who bring us the news.
Written by Administrator
Thursday, 31 March 2011 21:50
EIGHTEEN presidential candidates will slug it out in Nigeria’s April 9 presidential poll and contest for the lion share of over 73 million votes from the electorate across 36 states of the Federation; and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).