Holy Week in Nigeria is off to an ugly start. A bomb detonated during rush hour at a bus station in Abuja’s suburb Nyana on April 14, killed at least seventy-one people, destroyed at least sixteen “luxury buses” and twenty-four mini buses. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility, but it has the marks of a “Boko Haram” operation.
There is no clue as yet as to which strain of that diffuse movement might be responsible or whether the timing specifically targeted Holy Week. Boko Haram and a splinter group Ansaru, have previously conducted attacks against Christian institutions and during Christian holidays.
Abubakar Shekau, the most prominent Boko Haram leader, in his latest video released on March 24, called for accelerated attacks on Abuja and other areas outside its traditional area of operations in the north east. Monday’s operation, the second large scale one in Abuja associated with “Boko Haram” in the past four weeks, may be a manifestation of Shekau’s call for more attacks in the capital. The previous one happened on Sunday, March 30. That day, “Boko Haram” apparently engineered a jail break from Yellow House, the headquarters of the State Security Service in Abuja, followed by a pitched battle that, according to eye witnesses living in the neighborhood, lasted up to three hours. Yellow House is adjacent to Aso Villa, the residence of President Goodluck Jonathan. His spokesman said that the president did not leave the Villa during the fighting. As is usual, the authorities provided few details and blocked media access to the site. The explosion at the Nyana bus station may be different because it is a major transport hub and difficult to close off. Hence, more details may be forthcoming.
Above is the weekly map of violence that took place on April 5-10 in Nigeria. It can also be found here. It does not include Monday’s Abuja attack—that will be included in this week’s map that we anticipate posting on April 21.
The alleged Boko Haram attack in Jigawa recorded on the April 5-10 map is a new development. Up to now, Jigawa had been relatively free of violence. The Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) recorded only nine deaths from violence in the state from May 2011 to the end of March 2014. The attack in Jigawa may be an example of the geographic spread in Boko Haram operations that Shekau called for.
Civilians continue to bear the brunt of violence. In NST methodology (upon which the “Weekly Incidents” map is based) “other” refers to civilians, bystanders, and those not engaged in a violent offensive.
The notable attack in Zamfara, coded by the NST as “sectarian” because the media refers to “Hausa” gunmen, led to the death of 112 people. Ironically and tragically, they were meeting to discuss the communal violence in the area.