Over the past few days, Boko Haram has massacred hundreds of people in what Amnesty International is calling the deadliest attack in the jihadist group’s history:
Mike Omeri, the government spokesman on the insurgency, said fighting continued Friday for Baga, a town on the border with Chad where insurgents seized a key military base on Jan. 3 and attacked again on Wednesday. “Security forces have responded rapidly, and have deployed significant military assets and conducted airstrikes against militant targets,” Omeri said in a statement. District head Baba Abba Hassan said most victims are children, women and elderly people who could not run fast enough when insurgents drove into Baga, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on town residents. … An Amnesty International statement said there are reports the town was razed and as many as 2,000 people killed.
Emphasis added. Aryn Baker provides some background:
The offensive started on Jan. 3 with a daring raid on a multinational military base near Baga that had been established to combat crime in the lawless border region where Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon meet. It has since been repurposed to address the growing regional threat of Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group that got its start in northeastern Nigeria in 2002 and has used kidnapping—most notably of more than 200 schoolgirls last year—as an effective tactic. The base fell to the militants early Sunday morning, Jan 4, after several hours of intense fighting.
The second assault, which started in Baga itself on Jan. 6, appears to be an attempt by the rebels to assert their authority in an area of divided loyalties, according to Roddy Barclay, senior Africa analyst at Control Risks, a political risk consultancy based in London. “Boko Haram has frequently attacked communities perceived to support the government,” he says. “The use of violence is designed to drive community fear and compliance in order to further Boko Haram’s agenda.”
Jessica Schulberg adds that Boko Haram’s last headline-grabbing atrocity remains unresolved:
Meanwhile, the more than 200 Nigerian girls who were abducted by Boko Haram last year are approaching their ninth month of captivity. The U.S. has contributed hostage negotiators, surveillance drones, and intelligence analysts to the search. In May, Robert Jackson, a State Department specialist on Africa told the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee, “Resolving this crisis is now one of the highest priorities of the US government.”
Terrence McCoy is at a loss for what to do about this bloodthirsty insurgency:
It’s hard to find contemporary precedent for the delight Boko Haram takes in killing. Even the Islamic State, which has killed thousands and purposely targets minorities, doesn’t seem to be as wanton in its acts of carnage. It appears everyone — Muslim, Christian, Cameroonian, Nigerian — is a target for Boko Haram. … Is there any stopping it? For the time being, it appears not. The administration of Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck and his military, beset by corruption and ill-equipped, have been unable to match both Boko Haram’s firepower, discipline and fundraising. And now, with Boko Haram’s campaign to control northeast Nigeria complete, analysts said its territorial ambitions have outgrown Nigeria’s porous borders.