In between its major attacks, Boko Haram now carries out a steady stream of micro-attacks. These are often assassinations of security personnel, but the group also targets civilians and raids diverse targets (churches, markets, bars, etc). Recent micro-attacks include an assault on a senior police officer’s residence in Kano, the murder of a police corporal in Kano, killings of several civilians in Maiduguri, and the burnings of several schools in Borno State (of which Maiduguri is the capital).
The movement has also suffered losses: A secret bomb factory in Maiduguri exploded last week, killing three suspected sect members. Soldiers shot four other suspects in Maiduguri last week. Just yesterday soldiers shot three more. And the Nigerian press claims that Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, narrowly escaped capture in Kano, and that one of his wives was arrested, at least briefly.
It’s worth noting that efforts by security forces to neutralize the group can inadvertently stir up popular anger. After soldiers shot a motorcyclist in Kano this weekend, a group of protesters “marched through the streets, burning tyres and pelting soldiers with stones…They called for the dismantling of military checkpoints in the city.” The anger on display in Kano seems to reflect not only the immediate trigger of the shooting, but also a grievance concerning the military presence, and perhaps a deeper objection to how the military is handling the crisis overall.
The prolongation of Boko Haram’s uprising is having a number of domestic and regional effects that go beyond just security. The violence has disrupted the school year for thousands of children. Foreigners are fleeing Nigeria to neighboring countries as a result of security crackdowns. Human displacement, combined with border closures, is hurting neighboring economies.
The prolongation of the uprising is also attracting more and more attention from the United States. US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, in Nigeria yesterday, offered advice on how to deal with the crisis and said that the US is still pursuing plans to open a consulate in Kano. Security cooperation between the two governments continues. Back in Washington, Boko Haram is becoming a frequent topic at think tank events and conferences, for example the Heritage Foundation’s event “Boko Haram: An Overlooked Threat to U.S. Security,” which takes place today. I expect to see more events of this kind. The longer that the rebellion continues in Nigeria, the greater the number of voices in Washington that will say the movement is a danger to the US.
Finally, inside the Nigerian government, a special committee is reviewing the security apparatus. Their report is expected in May.