This week Boko Haram militants have continued their insurgency across northern Nigeria with little challenge from Nigerian authorities.
Between June 2 and June 3, the group conducted a number of attacks, killing over 200 civilians in several villages in northeastern Nigeria. In one instance, Boko Haram members dressed as soldiers told townspeople that they had come to protect residents. After gathering them in the town center, the militants began shouting “Allahu akbar” and opened fire, killing dozens. Some villagers who attempted to flee were shot and killed by gunmen lurking outside the village.
The villages attacked included Danjara, Agapalwa, and Antagara in the Gwoza local government district. The emir of Gwoza was shot and killed last week by Boko Haram militants as he rode in a convoy with other community leaders.
Another report indicated that a fourth town, Goshe, was also hit by Boko Haram, where at least 100 people were killed. One resident said: “They laid siege on the village and opened fire with Kalashnikovs and fired RPGs, burning the entire village with its 300 homes and a few mosques.”
The deceptive tactic of dressing as Nigerian soldiers offering protection appears to have become part of Boko Haram’s modus operandi. Wearing military uniforms, Boko Haram militants kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in April. One student, who managed to escape after the kidnapping, commented that “[w]hen we saw these gunmen, we thought they were soldiers, they told all of us to come and walk to the gates, we followed their instructions.”
On June 4, militants committed a particularly nasty attack on Barderi, a village near Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Telling villagers that they were going to preach to them, the militants opened fire as they gathered, killing at least 45 civilians.
Early in the morning today, militants fought with Nigerian security forces for three hours in Madagali in Adamawa state in northeastern Nigeria, where the attackers burnt down several buildings, including a church, and killed two civilians.
Heavily criticized for its lack of successful action against Boko Haram, the Nigerian military conducted an aerial bombardment of Boko Haram strongholds on June 4.
The airstrikes are likely to do little to change the score significantly between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram, however, and they are less likely to improve the military’s efficacy and image. The Nigerian military and government have been heavily criticized for their response to Boko Haram, particularly to the April abductions.
Additionally, there have been reports of suspected collusion between members of Boko Haram and Nigeria’s security forces. The fact that Boko Haram members have been seen on several occasions wearing Nigerian military uniforms in itself suggests links between individuals within the security structure and Boko Haram. On June 3, it was reported that 15 senior Nigerian military officers, including 10 generals, were found guilty by court martial of sharing information and ammunition with Boko Haram.
Striving to build an Islamic state in Nigeria, Boko Haram appears to be continuing to increase its operational tempo. In the near term, it does not appear that the Nigerian military is moving quickly to confront the threat and it is likely that Boko Haram will be able to continue launching attacks on innocent civilians in northern Nigeria.