On January 3, militants attacked the northern town of Baga [in the northeast near where Nigeria meets up with both Chad and Cameroon] and surrounding areas. But word was slow to get out. Residents began to flee the region, and it wasn’t until several days later that reports of death tolls ranging from hundreds to as many as 2,000 people got the world’s attention.
The Nigerian military has put the number much lower, closer to 150. But Amnesty International has called it possibly the deadliest massacre in Boko Haram’s history that could mark a disturbing and bloody escalation. And I think it’s important to understand that Boko Haram has been around for about 12 years as an organization. They became particularly violent and caught the world’s attention five years ago. So they have been rampaging for five years.
And, yes, this is part of what they do, do. Less than a week ago, there was that story of a 10-year-old who was sent into the market strapped with explosives, and then she was noticed, but it exploded. I think what came before is even more important. There was another story of a girl of about the same age who then got frightened and wouldn’t detonate the explosives. So there is speculation that this one was detonated remotely. And the other thing is Boko Haram has not confined its attacks to just that area of Northeastern Nigeria. They have hit Abuja. They have made forays into Cameroon, and actually had battles with the Cameroonian air force.
The points are made that (1) the Nigerian government has done very little in response to this Islamist terror group; (2) the atrocities of the group will almost certainly figure in the upcoming presidential election in Nigeria in some way or another, and (3) the problem is spreading without much international recognition or action. Indeed, I have been saying for a long time that Nigeria and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa have been under the global radar despite the fact that these are the fastest growing places on earth. This will come back to bite--it is just a matter of when, not if.