27 December, 2012
By Paul Ohia, with agency reports
United States independent thinktank, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) said it had established a research project called Nigeria Security Tracker aimed at cataloguing political violence based on a methodological survey of international media.
Writing on CFR blog Wednesday, former US ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell and senior researchers of CFR, Ralph Bunche and Asch Harwood said the effort was geared towards having a better understanding of the crises in Nigeria. “The NST is particularly focused on violence related to Boko Haram and other militant activities, communal or ethno-religious conflicts, extrajudicial killings by state security and kidnappings or other violent incidents that have a clear political dimension,” they wrote giving hint of the data collected so far through this method.
According to the NST, October 2012 was by far Nigeria’s deadliest month in the sixteen-month period since June 2011. In that month, three days of ongoing attacks by Boko Haram in the northern state of Yobe left at least 30 people dead, including a former government official. In Borno State, the military went on a rampage after a bomb attack injured two soldiers, killing at least thirty civilians. The NST also revealed that in Benue, communal conflict resulted in the deaths of at least thirty people and the destruction of homes and farmlands.
“A suicide bombing at a church in Kaduna killed eight people and set off reprisals that killed at least two more. In total, at least six hundred people were killed in October 2012.” the collected data said.
The NSF system also revealed that Boko Haram has also expanded its area of operations. CFR was able to record that in 2011, the sect’s violence was largely confined to Nigeria’s northeast region by the end of 2012. According to the data, this year, Boko Haram-related attacks have occurred in 14 out of the country’s 36 states, including all twelve of the states that have already adopted Islamic (Sharia) law, and in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.
Boko Haram has also claimed responsibility for attacks in Plateau State, which has been torn apart by ongoing communal violence. “Up until now, Boko Haram has been focused on Nigerian rather than Western targets of the international jihad. But that might be changing. In a recently released video, Abubakar Shekau made hostile references to the United States and Britain,” the CFR researchers noted.
They observed that the United States was increasingly worried that Boko Haram was collaborating with the al-Qaeda- linked Islamist regime in northern Mali. They equally noted that the Nigerian press has attributed to Boko Haram the murder of four Chinese nationals, three Indians and a Ghanaian in Borno State, as well as the kidnapping of two Europeans in Kebbi State who were killed in a botched rescue.
While victims continue to be almost exclusively Nigerian, Boko Haram has expanded its focus within the country. Since Christmas 2011, Christians have been a growing percentage of victims. Countrywide, according to the NST, at least thirty-seven attacks have occurred at churches and twenty-one at mosques. The NST has documented at least twenty-eight alleged suicide bombings, ten of which targeted churches and mosques. Use of suicide bombers had been unknown in West Africa, where suicide is culturally anathema, until two high- profile attacks in Abuja – the June 2011 police headquarters bombing and the August 2011 United Nations headquarters bombing.