from Africa in Transition

Boko Haram Attacks a Nigerian International Airport

December 2, 2013

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According to incomplete reporting from Nigerian media, the jihadist insurgency Boko Haram carried out extensive attacks in Maiduguri in the early hours of December 2. This was the first such attack on a large city since the imposition of a state of emergency in May, 2013.

In 2007, Maiduguri was estimated to have a population of over one million; after four years of the Boko Haram insurgency, however, it is hard to know how many people live there today.

The media reports that there were attacks on an air force installation with the destruction of one airplane and possibly two helicopters, on the international airport, and various other sites, including a trailer park, military check points, and “residential and public buildings.” Some Nigerian media report that the operation involved three hundred Boko Haram members, others put the number higher.

There is no precision in the reports regarding casualty numbers. One witness said, “I saw five military operational vehicles conveying dead bodies to the hospital about 6am, the bodies were suspected to be security agents killed during the attack.” A spokesman for the Nigerian army said it had “successfully repelled” a Boko Haram attack on Maiduguri and “inflicted serious casualties.” There are also reports that more than a hundred Boko Haram were killed by military airstrikes.

The Borno state government has in response to the attack, imposed a twenty-four hour curfew. Telephone networks in Maiduguri have already been shut down since the declaration of a state of emergency in May.

A few inferences from the incomplete reporting: Boko Haram launched a large operation, including an attack on the airport; there were likely significant casualties, though how many are military, civilian, or Boko Haram is not clear.

The operation also appears to have been a significant Boko Haram escalation. An attack on the international airport and the possible destruction of aircraft will be of particular concern to both the Nigerian and the international business community.

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Defense and Security

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