from Africa in Transition

Taking the Temperature of Nigeria’s Boko Haram

April 20, 2016

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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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The Nigeria security services regularly announce successes against Boko Haram. Earlier in April, they announced the arrest of Khalid al-Barnawi, a leader of Ansaru—a Boko Haram splinter—and have claimed thereby to have disrupted at least some terrorist networks. Over the weekend of April 16 and 17, the military announced the discovery of a large cache of Boko Haram weapons. An army spokesman said that the captured weapons were worth 20 million naira (the equivalent of roughly $100 thousand, at the official exchange rate, much less at the floating black market rate). The spokesman also said that the army recovered a generator, a Hilux vehicle, and several motorcycles.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations Nigeria Security Tracker, Boko Haram-inflicted casualties are down in 2016. But, there has been continued Boko Haram attacks on soft targets, making use of female and child suicide bombers. Government spokesmen say that such attacks reflect the weakening of Boko Haram under government military pressure.

On the other hand, in February there was a more-or-less conventional Boko Haram attack, with fighters wearing military uniforms and wielding modern weapons. More recently, Reuters reported that as of April 18, Boko Haram fighters were attacking soldiers of the 113th Battalion of the Nigerian army. According to a military spokesman, “The troops have been battling the insurgents since (the) early hours of today.” No other details were available.

With respect to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, something of a consensus may be emerging among Western observers that it will be around for a long time, despite allied military successes. The social and economic drivers are strong, not least among alienated Muslim youth in Western Europe and North America. The same appears to be true of Boko Haram, which may have the support or acquiescence of up to 10 percent of Nigeria’s population. If that estimate is close to correct, Boko Haram will be able to draw on the support of millions of people, more than enough to make up for the casualties it suffers at the hands of the security services.

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Nigeria

Wars and Conflict

Politics and Government

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