Post link 13 June 2014, 17:32
After two months in the global spotlight, the insurgency in northern Nigeria is fast turning into a national political crisis.

http://saharareporters.com/sites/default/files/page_images/galleries/2012/AIRFORCE,%20GOODLUCK%20AND%20UMAR.jpg?1337103758The deepening security crisis in northern Nigeria and along the borders with Cameroon and Niger has galvanised more attention internationally than in Abuja. This week, it was Britain's turn to hold a security conference on northern Nigeria. It invited an impressive group of diplomats and security experts. Many also attended the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, hosted by Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie, a Special Envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

A month ago it was France that hosted the regional summit at which President Goodluck Jonathan declared 'total war' on the Jama'atu Ahlus Sunnah Lidda'awati wal Jihad, widely known as Boko Haram, dubbing it the Al Qaida of West Africa. His fellow leaders, especially Cameroon's Paul Biya, looked markedly less enthusiastic about the prospect of total war in the region.

Then in August, United States President Barack Obama will host a grand Africa summit in Washington and security will top the agenda, along with economic renewal. Jonathan has been invited to that too, despite some coded critical messages passing between Abuja and Washington.

Many Nigerians have been puzzled by this intensity of international attention, triggered by Boko Haram's abduction of over 230 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno State in April. Far from being a new peak in violence by the jihadist group, it was the latest in a series of bloody attacks in the north-east. Earlier attacks had included the murder of dozens of teenage school children of both genders and serial abductions. Since the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, Boko Haram has launched a succession of attacks on villages in the area, and organised two bombs blasts in Abuja.

Last week, it killed hundreds more people in the Gwoza local government area in Borno, after murdering the Emir of Gwoza, Shehu Mustapha Idrisa Timta, who had publicly condemned Boko Haram. This prompted speculation that the Islamists may be seeking to take over swathes of territory. Locals say the group's black flag is flying in many villages in the Gwoza area.

Nine parts military
Taking territory would mark a huge tactical switch for a group that security experts say is about 4,000-5,000 strong and split into hundreds of quasi-autonomous fighting units, with several established bases in the Sambisa Forest, reckoned to cover an area the size of Britain, and the Mandara mountains on the Cameroon border.

Boko Haram's fighting and logistical capability has increased under Abubakar Shekau's leadership. 'The group is now nine parts military, one part theological, at least for this moment in the struggle,' says a Nigerian official who has had extensive contacts with its former members.

Not only has the group launched a near-constant barrage of attacks on villages, and especially schools, this year; it also has the logistics to move hundreds of captive children and adults around the region in trucks, keeping them well concealed from, or at least beyond the reach of, Nigeria's military and Special Forces from Britain and the USA.

Until now, Boko Haram's great military strength has been its mobility, able to hit and run at will, targeting military and police installations, and even organising gaol breaks. When the government announced emergency laws in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in the north-east alongside a new army onslaught a year ago, Boko Haram retreated from cities such as Maiduguri to the forest.

Although it reduced operations for a few weeks, the militia quickly established a new tempo of armed raids on villages and even the military's Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri. In the short term, there would seem to be little advantage in trying to hold territory, unless it was able to take vast numbers of civilians hostage in the process. Nigerian security officials said the armed forces would see that as a red line and any Boko Haram-held territory would be attacked by air and land...More on Africa-confidential.com


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