from Africa in Transition

Abuja Bomb Blast

June 16, 2011

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Members of emergency services work at the scene of an explosion at a police station after a suspected suicide bomber was killed and many vehicles were destroyed in Abuja June 16, 2011. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

A suicide bomber (with perhaps two additional accomplices) today attacked Louis Edet House, the national headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force. The numbers killed are not definitively known, though there are reports of at least five dead. Dozens of vehicles were destroyed and windows up to the seventh floor were blown out.

There have occasionally been bomb attacks before in Abuja, notably on October 1, 2010, the fiftieth anniversary of Nigeria’s independence. In that instance, Niger Delta militants claimed responsibility. This time, the police suspect Boko Haram, a violent radical Islamic cult that appears to be morphing into an insurrection with popular acquiescence if not outright support in parts of the North. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the almost daily bombing attacks in and around Maiduguri in the far northeastern part of the country. There are also reports, which I cannot confirm, that Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for today’s bombing.

A report by Stratfor (gated) suggests that the bomber’s specific target appears to have been the Nigeria chief of police, Hafiz Ringim, who earlier in the week boasted that he would destroy Boko Haram. In the aftermath of the failure of talks with the Jonathan government, Boko Haram had said that it would increase its attacks, and that its targets would be in all of the predominately Muslim northern states and in Abuja.

Boko Haram is an indigenous movement with few if any links to other terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). What is unusual about today’s attack is that it was carried out by a suicide bomber. Suicide is rare in Nigeria and is generally regarded as an anathema. There is nothing like the cult of suicide martyrs to be found in the Middle East. Boko Haram is claiming that it can deploy militants who have been trained in Somalia, where suicide attacks do occur. If true, it might account for the Abuja suicide bomber, and it would indicate an important and dangerous evolution for Boko Haram.

For more background on Boko Haram, have a look at this post I wrote last Friday.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA0dQoAWBSU&feature=player_embedded

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

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