Nigeria: Boko Haram’s Attacks in Kaduna

Two weeks, and two bombings in the city of Kaduna (estimated population 760,084 for the city, 6,066,562 for the state).

Kaduna, Nigeria

Last week:

A suspected suicide bomber disguised in military uniform was killed on Tuesday when his car bomb exploded under fire from soldiers outside a military base in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, the army said.


A Nigerian bomb disposal officer has been killed when an explosive device he was trying to defuse went off, a police spokesperson has said.

The device was wrapped in a carrier bag and hidden behind an electricity pole in the residential area of Ungwar Sarki in the northern city of Kaduna.

A BBC correspondent at the scene says the police bomb squad was called in after reports of a first explosion.

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for last week’s bombing (Hausa), and I expect they are behind this week’s attack too.

There are a few trends I see at work in these attacks on Kaduna:

  1. Boko Haram shows a continued ability to strike targets outside of its base, the Northeast. With the bombings in Abuja last summer, the strike in Kano on January 20, and other recent activities, Boko Haram (or its franchises, if one believes the movement has a loose internal structure) seems to be waging two campaigns simultaneously: a guerrilla campaign of frequent micro-attacks (such as assassinations of individual police officers) in the Northeast, and a terrorist campaign of periodic large-scale attacks elsewhere.
  2. With that said, Boko Haram is experimenting with moving into the Northwest more seriously. Boko Haram seems interested not just in conducting periodic attacks as spectacle, but in bringing to Northwestern cities like Kano and Kaduna the kind of regular violence that has characterized its presence in Maiduguri for over a year.
  3. Boko Haram’s primary target remains the government, especially the security forces.
  4. Kaduna, like Jos, may provide an attractive target if one of Boko Haram’s goals is to increase interreligious tensions across the North and across Nigeria. Kaduna has a larger (estimated) percentage of Christians of Christians than Kano or Maiduguri. Kaduna also has a history of interreligious and inter-communal tension and violence that precedes Boko Haram’s arrival by a decade. Major riots in Kaduna occurred in 2000, 2002, and during the post-election violence of last April. Attacks by Boko Haram in Kaduna could lead to a more general climate of fear and mistrust, one that could re-activate the city (and Kaduna State’s) cycle of violence.
  5. Kaduna arguably has greater security than other cities where Boko Haram is trying to establish a foothold. Both of the recent attacks have been partly repelled by security forces.

For some background on past incidents of inter-communal violence in Kaduna State, see here (.pdf) and here (.pdf).

16 thoughts on “Nigeria: Boko Haram’s Attacks in Kaduna

  1. Boko Haram has and will have no problems operating in the Hausa speaking parts of Nigeria. (I.e. parts of Nigeria where Hausa is the lingua franca). Operating outside the non-Hausa speaking parts of the nation will be a different issue altogether.

  2. Kaduna is also one of the most heavily militarised towns in Nigeria. It is the seat of the Defence Academy, 1 Mechanised Division, 301 Flying Training School and the Recruit training depot is in nearby Zaria.

    Kaduna was always going to be a tougher nut to crack.

      • The Nigerian Military has traditionally been largely drawn from the North. The British regarded the Hausas as “noble savages”, so the fighting men were largely drawn from there. Tradesmen and technical professionals were traditionally recruited from the South (higher levels of education).

        * The first soldiers the British used were known as “Glover’s Hausas”.
        ** This is one of the reasons why Southern Nigerians are extremely suspicious of the British (and by extension – Americans, because there is no daylight between British and American policy on Nigeria).

      • Interesting. I had been considering the potential for a coup if the government wasn’t seen as being aggressive enough in stopping separatist tendencies.

      • A coup makes sense only when the Army is cohesive. Since 1999, the Nigerian Army has dealt with a plethora of inter-ethnic crises.

        The Nigerian Army has never had to deal with some many different crises before. It must have an effect on cohesion and espirit de corps.

        For example, I am told that one of the reasons why it was difficult to resolve the Jos crisis was because almost every household in some parts of Jos had a relation in the Nigerian Military.

        How cohesive is the Nigerian Army? Can the Nigerian Army rally behind a common cause?

      • You would know the circumstances of the Nigerian military better than I, but if there are enough separatist conflicts the national military tends to end up dominated by the social group(s) that control the government and are loyal to the preservation of the nation while forces and officers from the people fighting to separate tend to get purged. Of course if the bulk of the military comes from the north that doesn’t seem very likely in this case.

      • There are still a large number of Northerners in the Nigerian Army, but they are nowhere near as dominant as they used to be in the past. There is no group that completely dominates the army the way the North did in the recent past.

  3. This might be a strategic misstep. Obviously the potential for comunal violence is great and so is the damage to the legitimacy of Nigeria if it spirals out of control but typically cities are actually a disaster for terrorists and insurgents. In the city the security forces have an easier time of spreading informants, closing off districts and physically controlling the movement of the population. I’m not sure if there has been a militant group out there that succeeded in the cities if it didn’t first succeed in the rural areas.

    • Did any one suggest they are based in the city? They operate in the city, they have informants and sympathisers in the city, but nobody is suggesting that the Boko Haram leadership is based in any city.

      • If it wants to really spread fear it needs to establish at least a base in the city for a group to attack from. I doubt they would do anything so foolish as to put the main leaders (whoever they are) in a city and certainly not in one that isn’t weakly tied to the government but it wouldn’t be surprising for a few dozen operatives to set up camp there, nor would it be surprising for a large number of arrests to be made from one government informant.

        They might keep to the countryside and rely on a few good bombings to stir up the cities and let the masses do the rest on their own but I don’t know how well they could choose targets or move people and supplies without a preexisting support network.

  4. The problem about this boko haram, there are some top men in the gorvement that are contibruting in this act, so what i am trying to say is that they use there power,in suplying this iterms, by beating the security on the road,

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