Up to 2,000 are feared dead in an ongoing massacre after Boko Haram seized Baga, a town on Nigeria's border with Chad in Borno state. Amnesty International cited witness claims that the town was "razed to the ground." Hundreds of bodies remain strewn in the bush, where fighting has continued since the town's military base was overrun by the militants on Jan. 3. Said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International: "The attack on Baga and surrounding towns, looks as if it could be Boko Haram’s deadliest act in a catalogue of increasingly heinous attacks carried out by the group. [T]his marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught against the civilian population." Meanwhile in Potiskum, Yobe state, at least six people are dead after two suspected child suicide bombers blew themselves up in a market Jan. 11.
Royal Dutch Shell on Jan. 7 reached a settlement in a lawsuit concerning the Niger Delta oil spills of 2008. The settlement, totaling $84 million, will be divided between 15,600 individuals who will receive $3,300 each as compensation for losses caused by the spills. The remaining $30 million will be disbursed throughout the community, which also suffered significant damage from the spills. Rights group Amnesty International noted that this settlement is "an important victory for the victims of corporate negligence," but expressed disappointment that it took six years for the victims to be compensated. They argue that Shell knew that the oil spills [which took place near Bodo in October and December 2008] were a distinct possibility since 2002 and took no "effective" action to prevent them from occurring. However, the managing director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Mutiu Sunmonu, contends that they have taken responsibility for the spills from the beginning, and that the spills were due to operational pipe failure. AI also accused Shell of making false claims about the impact of the oil spills in documents presented to a UK court in November. They state that Shell claimed that only 4,000 barrels of oil spilled for both spills but AI believes the number is closer to 100,000 barrels for the first spill alone.
The rapidly escalating civil war in Libya on Dec. 28 saw the first air-strikes on Misrata, the country's third city, since the fall of the Qaddafi regime in 2011. Warplanes under the command of Gen. Khalifa Haftar fired missiles at the city's airport—just 30 minutes before a Turkish Airlines flight was due to leave for Istanbul. The fighter jets went on to attack Libya's largest steel plant and an air force academy near the airport, which are under the control of Islamist forces. (Irish Independent, Dec. 29) The Misrata attacks came days after Egypt (which is said to be backing Gen. Haftar) issued a warning about international terrorist groups using Libyan territory as a staging ground, especially in the remote south. Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that Nigeria's Boko Haram is among the groups that have established camps in southern Libya. (MENA, Dec. 23)
As readers are doubtless aware, an unknown militant is currently holding a number of hostages at a Lindt Chocolat Cafe in downtown Sydney, and forcing them to display a jihadist flag in the store's window. There is much online controversy about exactly which faction's flag it is. The Sydney Morning Herald identifies it as the banner of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and contrasts it with those flown by ISIS and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. The report says Somalia's Shabab is also now flying the ISIS flag, which may mark another affiliate for the "Islamic State"—which would make four by our count. We have noted that protesters are on trial in Lebanon for having burned the ISIS flag, ostensibly because it includes the Arabic text of the Shahada or declaration of Muslim faith. These are all variations on the "Tawhid flag" that has been adopted by Islamists throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Given the franchise model of the jihadist networks, it really doesn't make that much difference which faction the Sydney militant is associated with, or if he is just a freelancer.
Access to Justice (A2Justice) and eight other civil rights groups brought an action against Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan before the Federal High Court in Abuja Dec. 1 with the goal of forcing an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by members of the Nigerian military and the state-sponsored militias, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). The rights groups have sought permission from the court to file a mandamus action under Order 34 Rule 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 (PDF). If granted, the order would require the Nigerian government to investigate allegations of war crimes and human rights violations committed by CJTF in northeastern Nigeria. The push for an investigation was sparked by a report from Amnesty International accusing the Nigerian military and the CJTF of war crimes during the ongoing campaign against Boko Haram.
More than 400,000 people in northeastern Nigeria, who have been forced to flee their homes due to ongoing violence by militant Islamist group Boko Haram, are in "urgent need" of assistance, humanitarian agencies say. This number is likely to increase as attacks against civilians escalate. "There's a major crisis going on in the northeast, and it's not being recognized for the crisis it is," said Sarah Ndikumana, country director for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Nigeria. "Since late August, the insurgency movement has been aggressively and progressively taking Adamawa State over and establishing their presence, and what this means is that hundreds of thousands have fled." This has left "countless" people without access to food, water, shelter, medical care and other basic necessities.
Two teenage female suicide bombers blew themselves up in a busy market in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri, Borno state, on Nov. 25, killing at least 30 people. Deutsche Welle reports from neighboring Adamawa state (see map) that traditional hunters in rural areas, armed only with bows and arrows, are organizing patrols to protect their villages against Boko Haram. While one vigilante told DW, "our prayers protect us against their weapons," the report was not clear if the force is made up of Muslims, Christians or both. Said Hilary Matfess, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore: "What's interesting about the rise of these vigilante groups is the fact that they typically don't fall along sectarian lines. It's an almost spontaneous response by local communities to the failure of the police and military to maintain order." (DW, CSM, Nov. 25)
A study by UK-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) finds there were nearly 10,000 terrorist attacks in 2013, 44% more than the year before. The number of terrorism-related deaths climbed 61%—from 11,133 in 2012 to 17,958 in 2013. The Global Terrorism Index reported four groups dominated the attacks: ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and the Taliban, collectively responsible for 66% of the fatalities. Iraq was the country most affected by terrorism, with 2,492 attacks that killed more than 6,300. The report found that ISIS was responsible for "most" of the deaths in Iraq. The next top countries were Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. IEP produces the report from the Global Terrorism Database compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), at the University of Maryland. (Yahoo News, Nov. 18; AP, Nov. 17)