Max Security Analysis Nigeria: Boko Haram continues high-casualty raids in rural northeast while increasing car bombing attacks in major cities nationwide June 27, 2014

Current Situation
Reports indicate a bomb exploded at the Emab Plaza shopping center on the Aminu Kano Crescent in the Wuse 2 area of Abuja at 16:00 (local time) on June 25. At this time 21 deaths and 17 injuries have been confirmed by police.
  • Reports indicate that over 100 people were killed in attacks on two villages in the Sanga Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State in the overnight hours of June 23-24. Gunmen simultaneously entered the Kabami and Ankpong villages at approximately 22:00 (local time) and began shooting automatic weapons indiscriminately at villagers and destroying property. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the attackers were wearing police uniforms.
  • A large explosion was heard in Kano University’s School of Hygiene, located in Kano city’s Sabon Gari district, during the afternoon hours of June 23. Sources indicate that at least eight students were killed and a further twelve injured as a result of the explosion, which was reportedly caused by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). On May 18, a VBIED exploded in the Sabon Gari district, killing five civilians according to official reports. However, these reports are contradicted by witness statements claiming that as many as 25 people were killed.
  • Unconfirmed reports indicate that between 60 and 91 women and children were abducted and 30 men were killed, in Borno State during June 19-22 raids, which were allegedly perpetrated by Boko Haram fighters.
  • Reports indicate that during the evening of June 16, a taxi laden with explosives was detonated at the entrance of a World cup viewing center in Damaturu, the capital of the northeastern state of Yobe, resulting in the death of at least 21 civilians and over 27 others injured, according to hospital sources. The explosion took place at 20:15 (local time) at the Crossfire venue, in the Nayi-Nawa area of Damaturu.
  • On June 1, suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a well-attended football viewing venue in the northeastern village of Mubi, Adamawa State killing at least 40 people through the use of explosives.
  • At least 130 people were killed in the vicinity of the Jos Market and Jos University Teaching Hospital in the Plateau State capital on May 20, when two explosions occurred within 30 minutes of each other.
  • On April 14 a bomb at a bus station in the Nyanya Area of Abuja resulted in over 80 deaths. On May 1, a further bomb at the same location caused an additional 17 deaths. Responsibility for these two attacks was claimed by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Assessments: Boko Haram militants have increased the geographic scope of their insurgency through the use of VBIEDs
  1. As Boko Haram has declared its intention to to expand its theater of operations and attack targets nationwide, and as the group has claimed responsibility for the two Nyanya bombings in April and May, we assess that the group is responsible for the Jos and Kano bombings as well as the most recent Abuja attack.
  2. Prior to the bombing in the Nyanya area of Abuja on April 14, Boko Haram militant attacks in late 2013 and early 2014 had focused almost exclusively on the northeastern regions of Nigeria. Furthermore, the majority of these attacks were ambushes by large numbers of gunmen on rural targets. These outlying attacks typically took place near Boko Haram strongholds in Borno State, and targeted both residential villages and security installations. Although the use of this modus operandi has not ceased, the car bombing attacks on Abuja, Jos, and Kano demonstrate the militant group’s ability to strike high-profile targets removed from its strongholds.
  3. Due to heightened security protocols and the heavy deployment of military personnel to Abuja and other urban areas in central and northern Nigeria, we assess that Boko Haram is not able to achieve the freedom of movement they enjoy in the northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. Through the use of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), Boko Haram is able to maintain a low profile, successfully carrying out high-casualty accounts with a small number of personnel in areas far from its strongholds. Therefore, we assess that the militant group will continue to engage in raids on outlying areas of the northeast, while pursuing the further use of VBIEDs in attacks in the Middle Belt. Furthermore, we assess that Boko Haram militants will continue to attempt car bombings against targets in southern Nigeria.
Assessment: Boko Haram likely involved in Middle Belt Region intercommunal attacks 
  1. Although local leaders and media sources frequently place the blame for militant attacks in the Middle Belt Region on Fulani herdsmen, the modus operandi of recent communal attacks in the Middle Belt is not consistent with previous patterns of ethnic conflict in the region. Rather, sophisticated tactics such as simultaneous attacks, high casualty counts, and the use of heavy weapons as well as military and police uniforms during the assaults, reflect the tactics of a well-trained insurgent group. Specifically, the recent changes in Middle Belt violence are consistent with Boko Haram tactics.
  2. That said, the recent uptick in Middle Belt violence may be attributable to ethnic Fulanis, as previous accounts indicate that Boko Haram leaders have paid Fulani herdsmen to carry out attacks in the Middle Belt Region, demonstrating a growing cooperation between Boko Haram and militant Fulanis. We assess that Boko Haram has an active interest in promoting instability in the Middle Belt Region, and may therefore be capitalizing on existing ethnic tensions to carry out attacks in the region via Fulani proxy groups. The importance of the Middle Belt Region to the Boko Haram insurgency is demonstrated by the recent spate of car bombings in urban centers throughout the region, including the capital city of Abuja.
  3. Alternatively, the use of heavy weaponry and sophisticated tactics in these attacks may indicate an increasingly militant trend in Middle Belt ethnic conflicts. The entrenchment of arms trading routes passing through northern Nigeria may account for the shifting tactics and growing casualty accounts in Middle Belt inter-ethnic attacks. Moreover, it is likely that local residents will continue to attribute the attacks to Fulani herdsmen, leading to more violent and frequent cyclical patterns of intercommunal conflict.