Sable Liggera '17
Assistant News Editor
At a bus station in Biu, Nigeria on Feb. 26, a suicide bombing resulted in the death of an estimated 17 people. That same day, a second suicide bomber was discovered at the bus station and was beaten to death by the crowd of people before the explosive could be detonated.
Such terrorist attacks are becoming increasingly frequent, especially in recent months. On Feb. 22, a seven-year-old girl detonated an explosive at a market in Potiskum, in northeast Nigeria, killing herself and five others. A week earlier, a 16-year-old girl killed ten people in a suicide bombing. These incidents represent only a small number of the devastating suicide bombings plaguing Nigeria.
The suicide bombings have been linked to Boko Haram, a radical Islamic terrorist group based in northeastern Nigeria as well as Chad, Niger and Cameroon. From 2009 to 2014, Boko Haram has been responsible for approximately 5,000 deaths and 500 kidnappings. The first suicide bombing officially connected to Boko Haram occurred in 2011 and they have since increased exponentially in number.
Today, Boko Haram is increasing in power and influence, drawing its funding from kidnappings, extortion, drug smuggling, poaching and robbery. In 2014, the wife of the vice president of Cameroon was kidnapped after a group of around 200 armed Boko Haram militants launched an attack on her home. While she and several other kidnapping victims were eventually released, 15 were killed in the assault.
That same year, Boko Haram kidnapped a total of 276 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno, with only 50 of the children managing to escape. In a video released by the Boko Haram leader after the kidnapping, he claimed that the children had all been “married off” and “converted to Islam.” Since this mass kidnapping, the number of female children and adults participating in suicide bombings has risen. While it is unclear if the kidnapped victims are being used specifically in these attacks, it is certain that most of the suicide bombers are being coerced in one way or another.
One 13-year-old girl who was arrested in December, before carrying out the attack, specified that it was her father, a supporter of Boko Haram, who forced her to attempt the attack. In many other reported instances, the suicide bombers are accompanied to the site of the attempted attack by older males, suggesting that their presence is meant to ensure the girls complete the attack.
The severity and frequency of these attacks has impacted all facets of life in Nigeria. The February presidential election was pushed back to March 28 due to political instability, and, after that announcement, a video from Boko Haram announced their intentions: “Allah will not leave you to proceed with these elections even after us, because you are saying that authority is from people to people … but Allah says that the authority is only to him, only his rule is the one which applies on this land … We say that these elections that you are planning to do, will not happen in peace, even if that costs us our lives,” they stated.
President “Goodluck” Johnson has since admitted that he “underestimated” Boko Haram, and a regional force of 8,000 people is being organized to combat the terrorist group. This will be part of a 10-country-strong Central African joint military response group dedicated to fight Boko Haram. Currently, the United States military is also providing communications equipment and intelligence to aid the military coalition.
Only time will tell whether Nigerian politics, with its coming election, will be able to withstand the rapidly growing power of Boko Haram.