Over the last weekend in August, suspected Boko Haram operatives killed some eighty people in three villages in northeast Nigeria, according to the media. The latest round of killings highlights a dramatic resurgence of violence associated with Boko Haram.
The most important planks in President Buhari’s election campaign were promises to fight corruption and defeat Boko Haram. Since his inauguration, the president has fired the Jonathan administration’s military service chiefs and replaced them with appointments chosen on merit. He has moved the military headquarters of the operation against Boko Haram from Abuja to Maiduguri, the epicenter of Boko Haram operations. Shortly before last weekend’s carnage, he directed the service chiefs to defeat Boko Haram in “three months.” He has also appointed a new intelligence chief.
Perhaps in response to reinvigorated government pressure, Boko Haram appears to have shifted tactics. It has been making greater use of suicide bombers rather than whole sale attacks by a large number of operatives, which were typical at the beginning of the year. Since Buhari’s election suicide attacks had become more frequent, but were generally claiming fewer lives than had the prior large scale attacks. However, events in August indicate there has been a reversion to the previous pattern, with larger numbers of Boko Haram insurgents conducting attacks. It remains to be seen whether this upsurge will be sustained. What is unusual about the August 29-30 village attacks was that Boko Haram used horses rather than gasoline powered vehicles. That might indicate that it faces fuel and vehicle shortages.