Boko Haram continued its deadly campaign in north eastern Nigeria with a female suicide bomber taking at least 20 lives in an attack on a bus station in Damaturu, capital of Yobe State.
The young girl managed to get through the security checks, a growing feature at all public buildings in this part of Nigeria, and once inside detonated the bomb which was strapped to her body. Most of the victims are reported to be children. Boko Haram attacks have caused more than 130,000 innocent deaths since their campaign began six years ago. Their attacks are not just on Christian targets [churches, schools, mission houses…] but also against fellow-Muslims whom they claim are not ‘proper followers of Islam’.
Last week the Nigerian Electoral Commission decided to postpone the Presidential [and other] elections because of the instability caused by Boko Haram as well as the fact that voting papers had yet to be distributed to millions of eligible voters. President Goodluck Jonathan defended the decision, stating that he was not consulted.
The Boko Haram conflict is affecting neighbouring countries: Chad, Niger and Cameroon. An attack on the fishing area of Baga at the beginning of this year is seen as the lynchpin which made them see that they could not rely on Nigeria to deal with this Islamic sect but had to become active participants and not just onlookers.
Only last Wednesday, 11 February, Boko Haram tried to retake the border town of Gambouru which Chadian troops had driven them out of. But Gambouru is in Nigeria! Where was the Nigerian military? Speaking of the efforts of other military forces the Nigerian President said, “Initially, our neighbours were not too committed” to fighting Boko Haram but the new cooperation was promising”. Interestingly, it is Nigeria itself which is lagging behind in taking the fight to Boko Haram and the responsibility for that must lie with the President and his government. Many Nigerians are ashamed of their government’s inaction and obvious corruption which is part of the reason why Boko Haram can attack at will in their country. Their ability to regroup is a sign of its transformation from a rag-tag guerrilla group carrying out hit and run strikes to a more effective fighting force.
The President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, has said that his country will not be “cowed by an enemy that wants to cover our country in darkness.
The Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, has vowed that his group will defeat the regional forces.