Presumed Boko Haram militants killed more than 20 people in a double suicide attack in northern Cameroon on July 22—executed by two teenage girls, both under the age of 15. The attacks targeted a market and an adjoining neighborhood in Maroua, capital of the Far Northern Region. (See map) That same day, 42 lost their lives in a series of blasts at two bus stations in Gombe, northeast Nigeria. A new five-nation force—from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin—is due for deployment to fight Boko Haram by month's end. Boko Harams has been calling itself Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) since affiliating with the ISIS franchise earlier this year. (The Guardian, July 23; Long War Journal, July 22)
Authorities in Chad announced the arrest of a key Boko Haram leader and two henchmen in the capital N'Djamena on June 28. The militant leader, named as Mahamat Moustapha AKA Baana Fanay, is accused coordinating trafficking of weapons between Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. Chadian security forces have arrested 74 accused militants since June 15 terror attacks in N'Djamena that killed 38 people and injured 100 others. But the day after the arrest ot Baana Fanay, two new suicide bombings in N'Djamena kiilled at least 11, including five police officers. The blasts were in residential neighborhoods, but at least one was apparently set off as police raided a suspected Boko Haram safe-house. (News Agency of Nigeria, June 30; AP, Al Jazeera, June 29)
The US State Department on June 19 released its "Country Reports on Terrorism 2014," finding that the number of terrorist attacks around the world rose by a third in 2014 compared with the previous year. The number of people killed in such attacks rose by 80%, to nearly 33,000. The sharp increase was largely due to the "unprecedented" seizure of territory in Iraq and Syria by ISIS, and the growith of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Terrorist groups used more aggressive tactics in 2014 than in previous years, such as beheadings and crucifixions. ISIS attacks on religious minorities like Christians and Yazidis are cited. Islamic State was particularly lethal. The reports says the June 2014 massacre at a prison in Mosul, Iraq, in which ISIS killed 670 Shi'ite prisoners "was the deadliest attack worldwide since September 11, 2001." The report notes the "central al-Qaeda leadership" has been weakened, but the network's regional affiliates have gained ground in places like Yemen and the Horn of Africa. (BBC News, Reuters, State Department, June 19)
Amnesty International urged Cameroon on June 19 to end the six-month detention of 84 children being held after raids on Koranic schools. AI reports that some of the children were as young as five years old. The children remained detained in a children's center in Maroua even after being charged with no crimes. The government charged the teachers of the Koranic schools of running terrorist training camps for the Nigeria-based group Boko Haram. The raids were part of the Cameroon government's on-going battle against the terrorist group. Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International deputy director for West and Central Africa, stated: "Detaining young children will do nothing to protect Cameroonians living under the threat of Boko Haram." AI has urged Cameroon to immediately release any children under the age of 15 to their parents and ensure a fair trial for any other's associated with the raid.
Around 8,000 Nigerian civilians have been killed since 2011 as a result of abuses by military forces, Amnesty International (AI) reported June 3. The report attributes civilian deaths to torture, starvation, suffocation and executions by military forces at detention camps. AI's secretary general Salil Shetty said, "[t]he previous Nigerian administration's utterly callous 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' attitude when it comes to the hundreds of stories of death coming out of the military detention centers beggars belief." AI says the military's actions at the detention camps are part of a "witch hunt" in an effort to locate members of Boko Haram. AI called for President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate any possible crimes against humanity committed at the camps and to bring justice to the victims.
Over the past two months, the ISIS international franchise has made foreboding gains from West Africa to the Indian subcontinent. In Nigeria, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS in March, according to the anti-terrorist monitoring group SITE. The pledge, attributed to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, was made in an audio posted on Twitter (and since removed). "We announce our allegiance to the Caliph... and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity," SITE quoted the statement. (Al Jazeera, March 8)
The brutal Boko Haram rebels are gaining ground at a frightening pace in northwest Nigeria, even mounting a bloody attack this week on the region's major city, Maiduguri. Reports are mounting that the extremist movement is funding its insurgency by exploiting Nigeria's strategic place as a crossroads of the global narco-traffick. BBC News on Jan. 25 asked "How have Nigeria's militants become so strong?" It cited the findings of the International Crisis Group that Boko Haram "has forged ties with arms smugglers in the lawless parts of the vast Sahel region." Plenty of its arms (including tanks and armored vehicles) have been plundered from the Nigerian army itself. But plenty more are thought to have come from Libya, where arms depots were looted when Moammar Qaddafi's regime was overthrown in 2011. Trafficking networks have been moving that plundered war material across the Sahel and Sahara, integrating the traffick into routes already established for moving drugs and other contraband between West Africa, Europe and Asia.
An advance unit of hundreds of Chadian troops, backed up by a column of tanks, arrived at Cameroon's northern border town of Kousseri Jan. 17, greeted with cheers by local residents terrorized by Boko Haram. The intervention force, approved by Chad's parliament, is to number in the thousands. Days earlier, most of the residents of nearby Kolofata were forced to flee after an attack by Boko Haram. Cameroon troops killed 143 insurgents in a gun battle that lasted more than four hours, the army said. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau this month threatened Cameroon's President Paul Biya in an online video. Biya sent some 1,000 troops to the border to fight Boko Haram after the wife of deputy premier Amadou Ali was captured in July by suspected militants. A French-led initiative calls for Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad to contribute 700 troops each to a multinational force against Boko Haram. (Press TV, Jan. 18; AFP, Jan. 17; BBC News, Bloomberg, Jan. 16)