3 September 2011
The president is facing a growing terrorist threat
A SUICIDE-BOMBING on August 26th at the headquarters of the UN in
’s capital, which left at least 23 people dead, has sharply raised the stakes in the conflict between the government and its terrorist opponents. It was the first suicide-bombing in Abuja, Nigeria to target an international body. It has rattled foreign residents. And it has made people question whether President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has a convincing plan to stop such attacks. Nigeria
The prime suspect is Boko Haram, an extremist Muslim group whose name means “Western education is sinful”. One of its spokesmen told foreign journalists that the action had been carried out to avenge the humiliating treatment of its members by
’s army and police. Although reluctant to admit to an embarrassing failure of security, Nigerian officials have blamed the sect. Nigeria
The attack marks a big leap in Boko Haram’s ambitions and suggests it may now be colluding with other more established groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which made a similar attack on UN offices in
four years ago. The Nigerian secret police say that a member of Boko Haram recently came back from Algeria to oversee the attack. Somalia
Most of the sect’s activities have hitherto been confined to the dusty north-east of Africa’s most populous nation, on the fringe of the
Sahara desert. But in recent months it has expanded beyond its home ground. The latest bombing is the second in the capital since June, when the chief of police narrowly avoided being blown up in his headquarters.
In July Mr Jonathan set up a committee to look into the turmoil in the north-east, Boko Haram’s base. But it has been slow to report. Unless the president soon presents a plan of action, Nigerians and foreign investors may lose confidence in his government’s ability to deal with the problem.
It is hard to gauge the extent of Boko Haram’s following. It has no clear structure or evident chain of command. Poverty in the area has helped drive young men into the arms of radical Islam. Fervent religious extremism has encouraged people to assail the government. The security services’ heavy-handed tactics in trying to quash the violence with random arrests, killings and disappearances have fuelled the discontent. Counter-insurgency experts are urging them to be less bellicose.