A bomb blast at a shopping plaza in Nigeria killed 21 people and injured 17 on Wednesday, June 14 2014. Witnesses and other local shop owners reported seeing rescue workers picking through the burned body parts of the most recent victims of the Islamic militant group Boko Haram. The blast was at the entrance of the marketplace, and was powerful enough to shatter windows across the street. According to National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Manzo Ezekiel, “The explosion struck at peak business time,” which was an hour before the country’s World Cup match against Argentina. One suspect was arrested and the other was fatally shot while trying to escape.
This bombing was the latest in a series of torment being inflicted on the Nigerian people by the Boko Haram. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has warned that what was an internal conflict has now grown into a regional crisis, evidenced by the conflict growing past the border into neighboring west African countries. In 2013, President Jonathan Goodluck declared a state of emergency in the three most dangerous states in the north where they are found to have their strongest hold: Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. Despite the emergency rule in these states the crisis has continued to expand.
The aim of the Boko Haram is to impose a strict enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria. The group’s initial focus was the opposition of Western education, their name meaning “Western education is forbidden.” They believe that Western education corrupts the moral values of Muslims, especially the girls. This reasoning has led them to also target schools across the country.
Nearly 500,000 people in northern Nigeria have been forced to flee their homes in response to the “increasingly monstrous insurgency that threatens food security in many parts of the country,” according to the UN. The Human Rights Watch lists 2014 as the worst year thus far of the six year insurgency. So far this year alone, over 700 people have been killed in attacks on 40 different villages with hundreds of thousands being misplaced. The group has been burning down houses, churches, clinics, and schools in their wake. They have claimed responsibility for murdering children in their beds. Some members are responsible for the mass abduction and rape of women and girls across the country.
In 2013, they were declared a terrorist group by the U.S. Since then their attacks have gotten more heinous, and focus more and more on civilians that are already living in fear. In February of 2014 the group killed at least 29 students at a federal college, and then killed dozens of residents in two separate attacks. One such attack killed over 106 people in a Christian farming village. On April 14 they orchestrated a car bombing at a bus terminal outside the capital killing 75 people, and a similar bombing two weeks later killing another 19 people. In May, the group abducted over 200 school girls to be sold into marriage, gaining them international notoriety. On last week, the group kidnapped another 60 women and children for six days and killed 30 men, then pillaged the village for all food and burned it to the ground as they left. Yan St-Pierre, CEO of Modern Security Consulting Group, has even expressed concern that the group is benefiting from the increase in piracy along the west coast of Africa.
Nigerian security forces claim to be winning the battle against the Boko Haram, but the influx of their attacks on civilians seem to tell a different story. The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has stated, “The government has acknowledged that there have been some problems….they’re trying to control it.” The influx of attacks seem to show the insurgency may well be beyond their control.