On Sunday, a church was bombed in the city of Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, and two others were bombed in Zaria (another city in Kaduna State). The rebel group Boko Haram, which has struck Kaduna several times before, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Bombings followed on Monday in the city of Damaturu, Yobe State. View a map of Nigeria here.
The bombing in Kaduna has activated a broader conflict in the city. On Sunday, “as news of the church attack filtered through the city…young Christians took to the streets in violent protest. An AP reporter saw billows of smoke over a mosque in a predominantly Christian part of the city. People had mounted illegal roadblocks and were seen harassing motorists.” Today, “Muslims took to the streets…firing AK-47s, burning tires and destroying at least one church.” Another bomb went off in a market in Kaduna. Authorities have placed both Kaduna and Damaturu under curfew. The violence has disrupted business, academic, and other activity in Kaduna.
Kaduna has seen periodic interreligious violence over the course of the last decade (further back, there have been clashes in Kaduna State for decades, such as an infamous episode in the town of Kafanchan in 1987). Riots occurred in Kaduna, along with other major Northern cities, in 2011 after the election of President Goodluck Jonathan. This week’s violence, in other words, could awaken memories of past conflicts and grievances.
I have seen several estimates of the dead in Kaduna, ranging from around twenty in the blasts to over sixty for all victims.
Three immediate implications of the attacks are:
- Heightened fears of reprisal killings elsewhere. For example, Muslims in Onitsha, Anambra State, in the Southeast, have reportedly sought police protection. These fears are not new – some Christian leaders’ rhetoric has hinted at the possibility of reprisal killings over Boko Haram’s violence before – but the violence in Kaduna represents one of the most serious incidents in which an attack by Boko Haram has immediately sparked interreligious clashes.* Hopefully the calls from various Muslim and Christian organizations for youth to avoid violence will resonate.
- Further loss of faith in the authorities among ordinary people. Much of the reprisal violence in Kaduna originated in protests by Christians and Muslims, protests that partly voiced anger at the government over its failure to protect them. The more people feel they are on their own, the greater their temptation to take up weapons.
- The aftermath of the bombings is an apparent benefit to Boko Haram, if one of their aims is greater chaos. Reuters writes, “The church bombings seem calculated to trigger wider sectarian strife. Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has said, in al Qaeda-style Internet videos, that the attacks on Christians were revenge for the killing of Muslims.” Boko Haram also benefits if the point above holds, namely if people continue to lose faith in government.
The situation in Kaduna (as well as in Damaturu and elsewhere) continues to evolve. I recommend following the BBC’s Will Ross for updates.
*Jos, a site of recurring Muslim-Christian clashes, is perhaps another place where Boko Haram attacks have fed interreligious violence, though the drivers of violence in that city have much to do with local history, law, and politics. Nevertheless, Jos appears to be one of the movement’s targets: Boko Haram claimed responsibility for bombings in Jos on Sunday June 10.
You talked about “tough rhetoric from Christian leaders”. I wish you listened to the argument we had in my “mainly Christian” office. People are ready to kill.
That, not Boko Haram’s association with Al Qaeda should keep people worried.
if it is boko harem dat is doing dis ,who giv dem money to buy bomb,is nt d inflencial pple,there is noting like boko harem,dis is d muslim youth doing dis nonse,is high time the christan stan to there responsibility.
I would like to see a post on the funding of Haram. I’ve spoken with Nigerian journalists that have made the claim norther governors and political figures are funding the group. But last week the military and police are killing members, just not at desired rate. Hopefully a civil war doesn’t break out.
Nigeria is ranked 14th on 2012 list of failed state index.
I too would like to see more information about Boko Haram’s funding. I have never seen much credible writing on the subject.
I think Alex’s point here is crucial, and it’s is one of the reasons why so many Nigerian blog commenters and Twitter followers get frustrated by how U.S. academics have responded to Boko Haram. If, like me (and, as Alex mentioned in his most recent post, him), you’re working only with publicly-available, open source information, there are an incredible number of claims about Boko Haram that simply can’t be confirmed with the existing sources. I also hear all the time about BH’s sponsorship by certain northern elites, or about BH’s ties to AQIM, and I’m inclined to find at least some of these accusations believable (others, like El Rufai’s recent assertion on Twitter that the Nigerian federal government was staging BH attacks, I find less believable).
Except for a few documented pieces of information about BH’s early origins, most of what’s needed to build a solid, quality assessment of BH’s structure, leadership, and links to outside organizations just isn’t there. Take statements about Mohammed Yusuf’s involvement in Borno State politics in the early 2000s, for example. I’ve got a fairly comprehensive database of press coverage of sharia implementation in Borno in the early 2000s, and I can’t confirm any of the claims that Yusuf was on various advisory boards, or meeting with state officials. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, just that I can’t verify it.
Generally, we don’t have the trial transcripts, or extensive interview materials (we do have some, obviously–Andrew Walker and Ahmed Salkida have both reported interviews), or declassified documents linking BH to outside money or training, to draw much more than tentative conclusions. This is one reason why the Nigerian press coverage (especially the op-ed pieces) tend to re-circulate the same accusations and innuendos, why the international coverage has often been vague on everything but the aftermath of the violence, and why the few published academic articles on BH have simply repeated many of these same non-confirmed accusations as truths (a new article in Third World Quarterly, out last month, states as a known fact that two former presidents are effective supporters of Boko Haram).
I’m not arguing that much of what’s said about BH in Nigeria (in the press and privately, among Muslims and Christians) isn’t necessarily true (although some of it is obvious exaggeration or fundamentally unconfirmable speculation). But given the rush to judgement and accusation in many Nigerian (and international) communities, and given the conspiracy theory culture of politics, it seems important that at least some voices demand more and better information before drawing highly attenuated conclusions about who sponsors and supports Boko Haram.
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