On Boko Haram’s Bombings of Newspaper Offices in Abuja and Kaduna

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.

10 thoughts on “On Boko Haram’s Bombings of Newspaper Offices in Abuja and Kaduna

  1. Let me make a few comments.

    Interesting, today at the economic summit organised by the governors of the Niger Delta, the National Security Advisor (General Owoye Azazi), had a few words to say about Boko Haram. He wondered aloud about the correlation between the increasing scope and intensity of attacks and Jonathan’s election. He also wondered why Boko Haram witnessed a quantum leap in logistical and operational capabilities shortly after Jonathan came to power.

    He left the audience with no illusion about what he believes is behind Boko Haram – politics, and his audience (of mostly Southerners) will conclude that the Northern (Muslim) political elite is using Boko Haram as a tool to negotiate for power at the center.

    If one considers the impact of that perception on the future unity and stability of Nigeria, one will immediately dismiss any talk about “Al Qaeda infiltration”. Most Nigerians neither know nor care whether Al Qaeda is a man or a horse. They know that the most violent Muslims tend to Hausa-Fulani/Kanuri and any Islamist tinted violence in Nigeria will be considered as an assault by these groups on the rest of Nigeria (with the full support of the ethnic leadership).

    Extremely worrying.

    Thankfully, you have resisted the common urge to pepper your observation with statements like “largely Christian South and predominantly Muslim North”. This conflict is totally within Northern Nigeria (the most religiously and ethnically diverse region in Nigeria). The “Middle-Belt” is neither an official nor a historically accurate description of any part of Nigeria, it is all in Northern Nigeria.

    This is why the Christian community in Nigeria is extremely upset with statements from the State Department like “reaching out to the Muslim community”, without considering that Northern Nigeria has an extremely large Christian community. Anyway, I digress.

    The newspaper that was bombed, “Thisday”, was also the topic of a huge controversy in 2002 when a rookie columnist suggested that Prophet Muhammad would have selected a wife from among the “Miss World” contestants. The poor girl (Isioma Daniel) had to seek asylum in the US and a fatwa was proclaimed by a deputy governor of one of the states of Northern Nigeria.

    Ms. Daniel’s 2002 column was given as one of the reasons for the suicide bomb attack on two “Thisday” offices.

    I saw the publisher of “Thisday”, he was defiant. “Thisday” is up and running. Old wounds are still raw and new wounds are being inflicted. I fear for the future of Nigeria and even wonder whether the future unity of Nigeria is desirable. We Southerners neither have the resources nor the patience to accomodate an African version of Afghanistan in our hinterlands. We want a new nation of Christians and moderate Muslims – we can wall off the fanatics and jihadis.

  2. I disagree with your statement: “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.”

    Victims of :
    1. The St. Theresa’s Catholic Church bombing in Madalla (outside Abuja).
    2. COCIN Church bombing in Jos.
    3. St. Finbarr’s Catholic Church bombing in Jos
    4. Massacre of 12 Igbo traders at Mubi
    5. Over 150 people killed at 10 Churches demolished at the “New Jerusalem” estate in Damaturu
    6. Bombing of All Christian Fellowship Church at Suleja (near Abuja).
    7. Explosion at the “Mountain of Fire and Miracles” Church in Jos.
    8. Attack on the “Deeper Life Bible Church” in Gombe.
    9. and a good number of rival Muslim clerics

    (All these events happened in less than a year!)

    Will strongly disagree that the primary target is the Nigerian government. Boko Haram has made it clear that “all Christians living in Northern Nigeria” are THE primary target.

    Just wanted to clear that.

  3. The National Security Advisor in his own words: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HfkH82TaEk

    There are three reasons/excuses given for Boko Haram and non of them are acceptable to all Nigerians:

    1. Boko Haram is due to poverty/alienation: This is what the State Department/Western media outlets suggest, but Nigeria’s Christian, North-Central (Middle-Belt) and Southern populations beg to differ. Poverty is so pervasive and severe in Nigeria that singling out a particular region in Nigeria for special attention is very likely to have adverse political consequences. The US State Department’s suggestion that “Nigerian set up of Ministry of Northern Affairs similar to the Ministry of Niger Delta” is nonsensical for the simple reason that the term “North” is pregnant with political symbolism. Does this “North” include Kwara, Benue and Plateau and if it does not, why not?

    2. Boko Haram is due to politics. This is rejected by the elite in the far North, because it implicates them – Boko Haram will definitely not be manipulated by Southern politicians.

    3. Boko Haram is due to religion. Nigeria’s Northern Muslim community rejects that because it then implicates them as being somewhat complicit.

    The truth lies somewhere between these three positions, but the longer we deny the obvious, the more difficult it becomes for us to solve this problem, because the first step in solving a problem is accurately defining it.

  4. Pingback: Azazi blames bombings on 2015 « TransformationWatch

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  6. Bomb attack on Christian Church in Nairobi, Al Shabab suspected. Is this a mere coincidence or are Boko Haram and Al Shabab comparing notes?

    Africa cannot afford a continent wide war pitting Christians against Muslims.

  7. Pingback: Nigeria: Attacks on Police and Christians | Sahel Blog

  8. Pingback: “They Tricked us Into Fighting Igbos During Civil War” – Middle Belt Group Says They Are Not Part of Northern Nigeria « TransformationWatch

  9. Pingback: Nigeria: Kaduna Bombings and Their Aftermath | Sahel Blog

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