- West Africa
- Conflicts - Religion - Governance
Nigeria: Extreme Islamists preparing to strike again?
Extreme Islamist group Boko Haram has re-emerged in northern Nigeria, where members have attacked a police station in the state of Bauchi, in an attempt to release members of their radical sect arrested last year for acts of terrorism, inciting violence and undermining the rule of law.
"The Bauchi central prison was attacked this evening [Tuesday evening] by people believed to be members of Boko Haram in an attempt to free their comrades," Bauchi state police commissioner Danlami Yar’Adua was quoted as saying.
"They arrived at the prison and began shooting sporadically to gain access, but we deployed our anti-riot policemen, who engaged them and contained the situation."
Residents and eyewitness said they sect members shot dead a handful of policemen at the gate and forced their way in chanting "Allahu Akbar," [God is great] when they arrived.
Last year’s uprising by Boko Haram, began with attacks on police posts. The anti-democratic/western ideals islamic sect was crushed by a police and military assault, with hundreds eventually killed and the sect’s headquarters and mosque destroyed.
Boko Haram’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was captured alive and later died whilst in police custody in July 30 last year. But, Boko Haram’s deputy, Abubakar Shekau, who was allegedly killed last year is reported to appeared in a recent video issuing new threats.
After reports mentioned that the State Security Service of Nigeria (SSS) had identified and classified the Boko Haram sect as a "murderous religious group" in a report submitted to top government officials in 2007, it was also revealed that the group had trained at GSPC [the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat], now known as AQMI [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb], camps in Algeria.
Observers insist that the two groups could have well continued their longstanding collaboration, even after last year’s clampdown. The Algerian GSPC initially recruited the first group of Boko Haram members in 2006.
And with reports indicating the involvement of the nephew of a former governor of a northeastern state, as coordinator of the group, and a former president of the local government of the State of Niger, in the group’s emergence, it is not far fetched to believe that Boko Haram is supported by some influential elements.
In recent times, Police officers have been among the victims of deadly shootings in northern Nigeria. The shootings have been blamed on members of the sect.
According to reports, at least nine people have been killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen, leading the Nigerian police to ban motorcycle-riding late at night in Bauchi state.
Many Nigerians are worried over the recurrent violence and threats posed by the group and believe the recent shootings signal that the sect may be preparing to strike again. They also fear that the increasing ethno-religious clashes are undermining the country’s legendary religious multicultural integrity
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sin" in local Hausa dialect, began a violent campaign to change Nigeria into an Islamic state, even though the country’s 150 million population is divided roughly in half between Christian southerners and Muslim northerners.
However, a vast majority of Nigerian Muslims disagree with the sect’s ideology, saying the group grew out of frustration with Nigeria’s widespread corruption, poverty and lack of opportunities for youths.