from Africa in Transition

Boko Haram Terror on Northern Nigeria’s Highways

October 22, 2013

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Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Drew Hinshaw in the Wall Street Journal reports Boko Haram terror on the four hundred-mile long highway between Kano (northern Nigeria’s largest city) and Maiduguri (the Northeast’s largest city). He reports incidences of chain-saw beheadings of truck drivers at the hands of Boko Haram members, perhaps an indication of the high propaganda value of such brutal murders.

He also cites anecdotes of under-armed Nigerian soldiers fleeing their checkpoints at the approach of Boko Haram operatives. Reports continue to come to light about abuses by security forces as well. Associated Press on October 19 published an article citing that at a single training hospital in Maiduguri, the number of bodies delivered by the military rose from 380 in the thirty days before the declaration of the state of emergency (14 May, 2013) to 1,321 bodies in the first thirty days under the state of emergency.

Over the weekend of October 19-20, the BBC reported that at least nineteen people had been killed on a road near the northern town of Logumani, near the Cameroonian border. Survivors spoke of gunmen on motorcycles dressed as soldiers who shot victims after pulling them from their cars and forcing them to the ground. They claim that Boko Haram raids on villages and vehicles have become “a common occurrence.”

In a September 26 video, Boko Haram claims it has killed more than two hundred on northern Nigeria’s roads.

Hinshaw reports that truck drivers who use the highway regularly conclude that Abuja is losing control of the Kano-Maiduguri road. Should Boko Haram succeed in closing that road, the economic consequences for northern Nigeria, already reeling, will be very bad. Goods are commonly shipped by truck in that region, and the trucks often carry passengers as well.

Nigerian military spokesmen continue to insist that it is restoring order in the North. Perhaps they should have a conversation with the truck drivers.