John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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The Nigeria Security Tracker and Nigeria’s Continuing Fight Against Boko Haram

by John Campbell
January 31, 2014

NST Nov data

We will be posting the week of February 2, 2014, the Nigeria Security Tracker data for January, 2014. We anticipate it will show an increase in Boko Haram and security service activity at the beginning of 2014. In particular, it will take into account the late January jihadi attacks on Christian churches in Adamawa state.

Adamawa is the venue of Boko Haram attacks from time to time, but less so than the other states adjacent to Borno in Nigeria’s northeast. In the October-December 2013 time frame the NST documents only three Boko Haram attacks in Adamawa, but twenty in Borno, two in Plateau, and one in Kaduna. Unlike other states within the Boko Haram sphere of activity that are predominately Muslim, Adamawa is said to be evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. It shares a long border with Cameroon, making it easy for perpetrators to escape. It is also easy for refugees to flee. There are press reports that in response to the recent church attacks, several thousand Nigerians have fled to Cameroon.

For the last quarter of the calendar year, Boko Haram attacks were highest in October, declined in November, and with a further decline in December. Unlike other years, there was no spike in Boko Haram activity around the Christmas holidays, perhaps because of tight government security.

January is likely to show a return to higher levels of Boko Haram violence. This pattern is consistent with the peaks-and-valleys pattern of violence shown by the NST. A peak in violence is followed by a decline for two or three months.

The NST uses open source materials that rarely distinguish between “Boko Haram,” a movement consisting of the followers of the murdered Mohammed Yusuf now led by Abubakar Shekau, and “Ansaru,” a more violent and radical break-away group. So, the NST combines under “Boko Haram” the violence perpetrated by “Ansaru.” Ansaru is known to attack churches more frequently than Boko Haram does. But, Ansaru has not before operated extensively in Adamawa. The January attacks on churches in that state may indicate that Ansaru is broadening its area of operations. Alternatively, these most recent atrocities may indicate that Boko Haram is increasingly using a tactic, targeting Christian worshippers in church, which is more commonly associated with Ansaru.

The NST’s death totals, being derived primarily from Nigerian media and other open sources, almost certainly are significantly understated. However, the patterns it indicates are credible.

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