Yesterday, another tragedy occurred in Nigeria. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in Abuja and a bomb thrown by a man in Kaduna. Both attacks targeted the offices of newspapers based in Southern Nigeria:
The attack in Abuja struck the offices of ThisDay, an influential daily newspaper. The bombing in Kaduna struck a building housing offices for ThisDay, The Moment and The Daily Sun newspapers, witnesses said. At least 26 people were injured in the attacks.
The attacks were motivated, according to a purported Boko Haram statement, by the group’s objections to press coverage of its activities.
I have three simple observations. One is that the attacks come after a few weeks of relative quiet, and conform to a pattern of periodic medium-sized or major attacks by Boko Haram. The attacks serve not only to target specific institutions, but also to remind Nigeria, the world, and the media (especially in this case) of Boko Haram’s continued presence and reach.
The second is that the location of the attacks has significance. There have been several discussions in the comments section of this blog in the past few months about the complex and tense situation in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt.” More attacks in that area by Boko Haram could play into Muslim-Christian relations and interethnic conflicts, both of which are hot-button issues in the Middle Belt, one of the most diverse regions in the world. Both Abuja and Kaduna lie in the Middle Belt, and Boko Haram has attacked both cities several times in the past.
The third observation is that Boko Haram continues to switch targets, perhaps to create the effects of surprise and confusion among security services and the general population. Many analysts, every time there is a bombing in Northern Nigeria, see the hand of Al Qaeda; whether or not they are correct, incorrect, or exaggerating, a different theme stands out to me: trial and error, or at least an ongoing process of experimentation. Boko Haram has demonstrated that it will shift targets and tactics frequently, while attempting to justify such choices on the basis of its broader ideology. The primary target remains, in my view, the Nigerian government, but the longer the uprising goes on, the more different sectors of Nigerian society it is affecting.
My condolences to those injured in the blasts and to the families of those killed.