Boko Haram's two-pronged attack in Nigeria
- 21 May 2014
- From the section Africa
The Boko Haram assault on Nigeria is on two very different fronts - first there are the violent raids on villages in the north-east, then there are the bomb attacks over a much wider area.
On Wednesday in Borno state's Alagarno village, relatives and friends buried 17 of their loved ones after yet another night-time raid by suspected Boko Haram fighters. The insurgents spent four hours killing, looting and torching every building before stealing vehicles and driving away without facing any military response whatsoever.
The night before, people in Shawa village went through hell when the insurgents struck. There were 10 more burials and the insurgents promised to come back to kill all the men and take the women away.
Both these villages are not far from Chibok, where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped last month. They are still missing.
But these latest 27 victims will not feature in any Twitter campaign like the abducted Chibok girls. They will join the list of thousands who have been killed and forgotten by all but their relatives and friends.
Government officials may not even utter the names Alagarno or Mawa. More troops have been sent to the towns in Borno but these remote villages seem virtually off limits to the military hence the insurgents' ability to attack for several hours and drive around in convoys.
Turning this around will not be easy but equipping the soldiers better would be a start.
Some Nigerian troops complain that they are outgunned by Boko Haram fighters. There have also been complaints over non-payment of salaries so it comes as no surprise that there have been reports of soldiers fleeing rather than fighting when the insurgents roll into a village, guns blazing.
The Chibok abductions led to intense international interest. While politicians around the world did not want to be accused of doing nothing to help rescue them, there will be a reluctance by many countries to become deeply embroiled in this complex conflict beyond sending advisers to Abuja and flying surveillance aircraft many thousands of feet above the war zone.
This is partly because the Nigerian military has frequently been accused of committing gross human rights abuses.
Religion, or power politics?
The second side of the violence is the bombing campaign. More than 200 people have been killed since last month in a series of blasts over a wide area from Abuja to Kano and now Jos.
Boko Haram has in the past said it wanted to create an Islamic state. But these blasts appear intended to kill as many people as possible and they are indiscriminate, killing Christians and Muslims, children and adults.
- Founded in 2002
- Initially focused on opposing Western education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language
- Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
- Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria - also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
- Some three million people affected
- Declared terrorist group by US in 2013
If the Jos attack was carried out by Boko Haram, then the Islamist extremists have learned to make far more sophisticated bombs in recent years. The twin bombing in Jos was a more ferocious attack than the blasts carried out by Boko Haram in 2012 when it seemed the aim was to foment religious violence.
For more than a decade, Jos, in the Middle Belt of Nigeria, has been the scene of frequent outbreaks of violence that are often described as religious clashes. In fact, they are rooted in competition for land, resources and political power.
Religious leaders have been calling on people to show restraint and not allow the bombings to spark further violence.
Where is this all heading? The ferocity, frequency and geographical spread of the attacks is alarming. There are people who suspect part of the anarchy is tied in with next year's elections and some politicians' thirst for power which goes hand in hand with immense wealth.
These days the president and government officials take less time to condemn the attacks, but there is no real sign that the military has the capacity to turn the tide against this brutal campaign of violence.
That is what terrifies many Nigerians.