Boko Haram/ISWAP Roundup for September 10, 2020

Previous roundup here.

Here is the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker for August 29 – September 4.

This Day: “Keeping up with NAF’s Counter Insurgency Operations in the North-East.”

A leaked memo, attributed to the Nigeria Customs Service but whose authenticity is unclear, warned of a jihadist presence in Nigeria’s North Central geopolitical zone, specifically in Kogi and Nasarawa States and around the Federal Capital, Abuja. The leak kicked off a major conversation – see here and here for samples of that debate.

AFP:

Boko Haram jihadists killed 10 civilians in attacks on three villages in restive northeast Nigeria, local security officials said Monday.

Babakura Kolo, the leader of a government-backed anti-jihadist militia, said the insurgents had carried out the assaults on Sunday.

Kolo said they raided the village of Kurmari, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from regional capital Maiduguri, late Sunday, killing four residents as they slept.

VOA: “Cameroonian villagers along the Nigerian border need humanitarian aid after deadly Boko Haram attacks displaced at least 7,000 people, authorities and rights groups say. Villagers have been fleeing their homes since early August because of attacks, which killed at least  22 people and wounded 29.” See also UNHCR, “Hunger and Fear Stalk Survivors of Attack in North Cameroon.”

Reuters:

Humanitarian affairs minister Sadiya Umar Farouk on Sunday [September 6] told reporters in Maiduguri, capital of the conflict-ravaged Borno state, that Nigerian Air Force helicopters and planes would be used to drop food supplies and items such as blankets.

“There has been an issue of inaccessible areas where humanitarian workers cannot reach the people,” she said at a news conference on Sunday. “Air drops are especially good for areas we cannot access by road,” she added.

Al Jazeera: “What’s Being Done to Keep Learning Going in Northern Nigeria?”

REACH, “Humanitarian Needs and Conflict Dynamics in Hard-to-Reach Areas of Borno State.” Covers the period April-June 2020. An excerpt (p. 4):

In all assessed LGAs [Local Government Areas], an incident of conflict resulting in the death of a civilian/civilians had reportedly taken place in at least 10% of assessed settlements. The highest proportion of assessed settlements where this was reported was in Jere (100%) and Konduga (100%). An incident of looting where most of a household’s property was stolen was reported to have occurred in at least 20% of assessed settlements in each LGA. Looting was most commonly reported to have happened in assessed settlements in Bama (93% of settlements), Jere (100%) and Konduga (100%). IDI [in-depth interview] participants reported additional protection concerns, including abductions, forced/early marriage, forced recruitment, and other forms of attacks and violence.

[…]

The reporting of severe protection concerns by KIs [key informants] and IDI participants from all LGAs suggests that the conflict continues to have negative consequences on the lives of people remaining in H2R [hard-to-reach] areas. Jere and Konduga had some of the highest proportion of assessed settlements reporting protection concerns. Although their proximity to Maiduguri and major roadways would generally be considered a positive factor for these areas, with regards to protection concerns being in the vicinity of an area of major concern for parties to the conflict may increase their risk.

See also my notes on the REACH report here.

Nigeria: Did Boko Haram Bomb Abuja?

On New Year’s Eve, a bomb in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, killed at least four people and wounded over two dozen more. The attack has evoked massive concern inside Nigeria and around the world – FBI agents are already headed to Nigeria to assist authorities in the investigation. So far no group has claimed responsibility, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a logical suspect, has denied involvement. Who, then, is behind the attack?

Nigerian authorities and many international journalists suspect Boko Haram, an Islamic rebel group that primarily operates in Maiduguri in Nigeria’s North East. If true, this attack would show Boko Haram widening the scope of its attacks:

There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing which came after a week in which scores were killed in religious violence in the flashpoint central city of Jos.

Defence Minister Adetokunbo Kayode said it was unclear who was behind the bombing, but President Goodluck Jonathan said preliminary analysis indicated the attack was “identical with the ones that happened in Jos” on Christmas Eve.

Chief of defence staff Air Marshal Oluseyi Petirin also said the blast appeared similar to the multiple attacks in the central city. “It’s the same type of incident we had in Jos,” he said.

An Islamic sect calling itself Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad [The Society of the People/Followers of Tradition for Preaching and Jihad], a title that refers to preaching and jihad, has claimed responsibility for the December 24 attacks in Jos which claimed more than 80 lives.

The group was formerly known as Boko Haram, which launched an uprising in central Nigeria last year in which hundreds were killed in fighting.

A few days after the Christmas Eve attacks, suspected Islamists killed eight people in the northern city of Maiduguri.

Reuters offers two potential motives:

Christmas is an obvious time for an Islamist militant group to try to get the maximum impact from attacks.

But some officials have also said they suspect the attacks may be politically motivated, aimed at damaging Jonathan’s credibility ahead of elections due in April for the presidency, parliament, regional governorships and local governments.

We will see what evidence investigators find and also whether Boko Haram claims responsibility. The motive is there, as is the pattern of attacks. If Boko Haram does turn out to be the culprit, this will mark their evolution into a truly national, rather than simply regional, source of instability in Nigeria.

Euronews has a short report: