On New Year’s Eve, a bomb in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, killed at least four people and wounded over two dozen more. The attack has evoked massive concern inside Nigeria and around the world – FBI agents are already headed to Nigeria to assist authorities in the investigation. So far no group has claimed responsibility, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a logical suspect, has denied involvement. Who, then, is behind the attack?
Nigerian authorities and many international journalists suspect Boko Haram, an Islamic rebel group that primarily operates in Maiduguri in Nigeria’s North East. If true, this attack would show Boko Haram widening the scope of its attacks:
There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing which came after a week in which scores were killed in religious violence in the flashpoint central city of Jos.
Defence Minister Adetokunbo Kayode said it was unclear who was behind the bombing, but President Goodluck Jonathan said preliminary analysis indicated the attack was “identical with the ones that happened in Jos” on Christmas Eve.
Chief of defence staff Air Marshal Oluseyi Petirin also said the blast appeared similar to the multiple attacks in the central city. “It’s the same type of incident we had in Jos,” he said.
An Islamic sect calling itself Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad [The Society of the People/Followers of Tradition for Preaching and Jihad], a title that refers to preaching and jihad, has claimed responsibility for the December 24 attacks in Jos which claimed more than 80 lives.
The group was formerly known as Boko Haram, which launched an uprising in central Nigeria last year in which hundreds were killed in fighting.
A few days after the Christmas Eve attacks, suspected Islamists killed eight people in the northern city of Maiduguri.
Reuters offers two potential motives:
Christmas is an obvious time for an Islamist militant group to try to get the maximum impact from attacks.
But some officials have also said they suspect the attacks may be politically motivated, aimed at damaging Jonathan’s credibility ahead of elections due in April for the presidency, parliament, regional governorships and local governments.
We will see what evidence investigators find and also whether Boko Haram claims responsibility. The motive is there, as is the pattern of attacks. If Boko Haram does turn out to be the culprit, this will mark their evolution into a truly national, rather than simply regional, source of instability in Nigeria.
Euronews has a short report: