Mashable: The latest video posted by West African Islamist extremists Boko Haram marks a change in tactics for the militant group.
The footage, featuring a man believed to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, depicts the reclusive leader delivering a 12-minute “message” to leaders in the Nigerian government and western democracies, condemning their rule of law and urging their leaders to turn to Allah.
But perhaps most interesting is the way in which the video was shared, the iconography used throughout, its higher resolution and the cues the group seems to be taking from its colleagues in the Islamic State (ISIS), militants thousands of miles away.
The New York Times reports: They came in the dead of night, their faces covered, riding on motorcycles and in pickup trucks, shouting “Allahu akbar” and firing their weapons.
“They started with the shootings; then came the beheadings,” said Hussaini M. Bukar, 25, who fled after Boko Haram fighters stormed his town in northern Nigeria. “They said, ‘Where are the unbelievers among you?’”
Women and girls were systematically imprisoned in houses, held until Boko Haram extracted the ones it had chosen for “marriage” or other purposes.
“They were parking” — imprisoning — “young girls and small, small children, parking them in the big houses,” said Bawa Safiya Umar, 45, whose 17-year-old son was killed when her town fell under Boko Haram’s control. “They parked 450 girls in four houses.”
Refugees flocking into this besieged provincial capital describe a grim world of punishment, abduction and death under Boko Haram in the Islamist quasi state it has imposed in parts of northern Nigeria.[Continue reading…]
AFP’s Phil Hazlewood reports: The fishing town of Baga in the far north of Borno is a no-go zone, as is much of the state, which has been worst hit by the violence.
No one can travel there, not even AFP’s local Nigerian staff. Telecommunications are destroyed. The only option is for survivors of Boko Haram raids to make it to an area still under government control – like the Borno state capital, Maiduguri – or over the border into Chad to tell their stories. Sometimes that can take weeks.
Photos and video, the proof that seems to be increasingly required to establish beyond doubt that an attack took place? Forget it.
Initial reporting of the attack in Baga went to type: AFP got word of the attack and issued a one-line alert on January 4. Beyond that, all we knew was that hundreds of people had fled and Boko Haram had overrun a military base used by Nigerian, Nigerien and Chadian troops in the counter-insurgency.
Four days later, President Goodluck Jonathan was in Lagos to launch his election campaign when Musa Bukar went on the Hausa-language service of BBC radio.
Bukar, a local government official from near Baga, claimed as many as 2,000 people may have been killed when Boko Haram fighters stormed the town, razing it and at least 16 surrounding settlements. [Continue reading…]
The Associated Press reports: Islamic extremists are rampaging through villages in northeastern Nigeria, killing, burning and looting with no troops protecting civilians, fleeing villagers said Wednesday.
More than 40 people have been killed in seven villages in Adamawa state this week, according to resident Emmanuel Kwache.
“They slaughtered people like rams and they burned down our houses after looting food,” Kwache said. “There’s no presence of troops, some residents are hiding on top of hills, while those that could not run were abducted, particularly youths and women.”
State legislator Adamu Kamale said he has appealed in vain for troops since the attacks began on Friday. On Monday the militants moved into Michika town, he said. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Nigeria’s current military strategy for defeating Boko Horam is unlikely to succeed, analysts have warned, with the international community largely powerless to defeat the increasingly rampant Islamist group.
Corruption inside the Nigerian army, unpaid wages, and mutinies among troops have all facilitated Boko Haram’s rise, they said. On Sunday the sect, which has killed thousands in its bid to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, kidnapped about 80 people in neighbouring Cameroon. The victims of this latest cross-border attack included many children. The Cameroon army subsequently managed to free 20 of the hostages.
Dr Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos, an associate fellow at Chatham House’s Africa programme, said Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, had been manifestly unable to halt Boko Haram’s advance. The opposition leader, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, who is seeking to unseat Jonathan in the election on 14 February, may be better able to overhaul the country’s dysfunctional military, he suggested. [Continue reading…]
Foreign Policy: With the world’s gaze focused on Paris last week, militants from Boko Haram destroyed the town of Baga and several neighboring villages in northern Nigeria, killing up to 2,000 people and displacing thousands more. On Saturday, at least another 16 people were killed when extremists strapped a bomb to a girl who may have been as young as 10 and then detonated it in a crowded marketplace.
You’d expect Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to condemn the carnage inside his country, particularly after he called last week’s massacre at a French satirical newspaper a “dastardly terrorist attack.” But you’d be wrong: Jonathan has yet to acknowledge that any of the Boko Haram attacks even took place.
On Monday, a spokesman for the Nigerian defense ministry said the death toll from the Baga massacre had been “exaggerated” and said the government’s own count put the tally at 150. Other groups are working toward a solid tally, but the Nigerian government has a long history of underestimating and downplaying the prevalence of Boko Haram.
The Guardian reports: Hundreds of bodies – too many to count – remain strewn in the bush in Nigeria from an Islamic extremist attack that Amnesty International described as the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram.
Fighting continued on Friday around Baga, a town on the border with Chad where insurgents seized a key military base on 3 January and attacked again on Wednesday.
“Security forces have responded rapidly, and have deployed significant military assets and conducted air strikes against militant targets,” said a government spokesman.
District head Baba Abba Hassan said most victims are children, women and elderly people who could not run fast enough when insurgents drove into Baga, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on town residents.
“The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous,” Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for poorly armed civilians in a defence group that fights Boko Haram, told the Associated Press.
He said the civilian fighters gave up on trying to count all the bodies. “No one could attend to the corpses and even the seriously injured ones who may have died by now,” Gava said.
An Amnesty International statement said there are reports the town was razed and as many as 2,000 people killed.
If true, “this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International. [Continue reading…]
The Wall Street Journal reports: Following its bloody siege on a garrison town, the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has carried out a nearly weeklong massacre in northeastern Nigeria, officials and residents said Friday, creating a gruesome backdrop to the country’s presidential campaign.
The militants that overtook the remote town of Baga on Saturday spent the next days hunting down and killing its residents, survivors said.
One man, Bulama Masta, said he lost his five children as they tried to swim and hike their way to safety. Two drowned on Saturday and the other three were shot on Sunday as they ran, he said. He arrived Monday into the largest nearby city, Maiduguri.
Boko Haram fighters swept through the surrounding villages outside Baga, killing residents of communities who they consider to be opponents, as well as men who tried to escape, according to Mr. Masta and other survivors, as well as officials and local vigilantes.
On Wednesday, Boko Haram burned down the entire town. [Continue reading…]
Ishaan Tharoor writes: 2014 has been a brutal year. The death toll of Syria’s ongoing civil war likely eclipsed 200,000, while the hideous rise of the Islamic State spurred a U.S.-led bombing campaign. A separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine led to thousands of deaths and clouded relations between the West and Moscow, which is believed to be aiding the rebels. And an Israeli offensive against Hamas militants saw whole stretches of the Gaza Strip reduced to rubble.
Sadly, there was plenty of other mayhem and violence that didn’t make newspaper frontpages as often. Here are seven awful conflicts that merited more attention. [Continue reading…]
The Wall Street Journal reports: After seizing another village in Nigeria’s northeast last month, Boko Haram militants took a step in their transition from terror group to governing authority. They rounded up the men and ordered them to wear pants as the prophet Mohammed did, several inches above the ankle.
Otherwise, a Boko Haram commander told a crowd of men, they would be killed. “So we folded our trousers,” said Birgamus Kadams, a 26-year-old who was among the group of several hundred residents of Garkidi village the militant addressed.
Like 1.5 million other Nigerians, Mr. Kadams fled his home, in his case to the government-held town of Yola. But the world he left behind is changing.
After years of sowing chaos—bombing mosques, gunning up markets, kidnapping children, and leaving thousands dead, Boko Haram now appears intent on establishing order in towns it holds.
Fighters are imposing rigorous Islamic law in a bid to carve out a corner of a strategic, oil-rich country—just as its fellow jihadists in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are doing. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports:
The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians’ every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.
The company’s top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew “everything that was being done in those ministries”. She boasted that the Nigerian government had “forgotten” about the extent of Shell’s infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.
The cache of secret dispatches from Washington’s embassies in Africa also revealed that the Anglo-Dutch oil firm swapped intelligence with the US, in one case providing US diplomats with the names of Nigerian politicians it suspected of supporting militant activity, and requesting information from the US on whether the militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles.
Nigeria’s latest spate of violence — which began with attacks on police stations in four northern states — is not what it seems. Superficially, the story looks similar to (though it was not connected with) outbreaks of Islamist fanaticism elsewhere in the world: An Islamist sect run amok, threatening a town’s security, demanding an end to Western institutions, and seeking to impose a strict religious code. But instead, the clashes are a northern Nigerian version of what is happening in another (mostly Christian) region of the country, the Niger Delta. Both are violent reactions to the flagrant lack of concern on the part of those who govern for the welfare of the governed.
Ten years of supposed democracy have yielded mounting poverty and deprivation of every kind in Nigeria. Young people, undereducated by a collapsed educational system, may “graduate,” but only into joblessness. Lives decline, frustration grows, and angry young men are too easily persuaded to pick up readily accessible guns in protest when something sparks their rage. Meanwhile, those in power at all levels ignore the business of governing and instead enrich themselves. Law and order deteriorate. The Nigerian police, which are federal, are called on, but they have grievances of their own. Ill-trained, ill-paid, and housed in squalid barracks, they are feared for their indiscriminate use of force. The military, though more professional, is not prepared for dealing with unrest — and unrest has proliferated more and more. [continued…]
At least 780 people were killed in last week’s military operation to quell an uprising by an Islamist sect in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the Red Cross said Monday.
“So far a total of 780 dead bodies were picked from the streets of Maiduguri and given a mass burial at three sites in the city,” Nigeria Red Cross official Muhammad Zanna Barma told AFP.
Fighting erupted between security forces and members of an extremist Islamist sect after an attack on a police station in nearby Bauchi state, and later spread to Kano, Yobe and Borno states.
Officials had last week put the death toll in violence in Yobe and Bauchi states at 98, bringing the overall total to 878, using the Red Cross figure for Maiduguri.
Suggesting on Sunday that the vast majority of the dead were sect members, officials said the bodies were swept into mass graves as their families were unwilling to claim them, for fear of being associated with the notorious sect — styled on Afghanistan’s Taliban. [continued…]