4th November, 2013
The efficacy of the five month old state of emergency in Nigeria’s north eastern states has come again under scrutiny with another report of the killing by the Boko Haram insurgents of 40 people and the wounding of a dozen others, in Bama, a town in Borno state, bordering Cameroon.
The attack was said to have been carried out on Thursday, two days before a deadly ambush on a wedding party, in which no fewer than 30 people were killed, including children.
Thursday’s attack was carried out by some 70 gunmen who stormed Bama late in the night in a convoy of motorcycles and pickup trucks, said Baba Shehu, of the area’s local government.
“They shot down 27 persons and injured 12… About 300 houses were burnt,” he told journalists in Borno’s capital Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was founded more than a decade ago.
Bama and other remote parts of northeast Nigeria have seen a series of brutal attacks in recent weeks which have left hundreds dead, despite official assurances that the insurgents have been weakened by an ongoing military offensive.
Details of massacres in Borno have typically been slow to emerge.
The mobile phone network in the area has been switched off since May, when President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency across the northeast and launched the military operation aimed at crushing at the Islamists’ four-year uprising.
Shehu, who blamed the Bama attack on Boko Haram, said the gunmen also destroyed 40 shops, killed livestock and stole roughly four million naira ($25,000, 19,000 euros) from Bama residents.
In a separate incident, he said 13 people travelling in a passenger bus in the same area were “ambushed by the (Islamist) militants and murdered in cold blood” on Saturday, bringing the total number of people killed to 40.
No other details were provided about the attack.
Also on Saturday in Borno, suspected Boko Haram gunmen killed 30 people in a wedding party, including the groom.
The group was on its way back to Borno from a neighbouring state when the attackers opened fire, leaving a trail of bodies lying on the road, residents said.
A Human Rights Watch toll earlier this year said the ongoing conflict has cost more than 3,600 lives, including those killed by security forces who have been accused of major abuses, although the current figure is certainly much higher.
The military maintains that its massive offensive against the Islamists, which has included aerial bombings, has left the group in disarray and contained the rebel fighters in remote parts of the northeast.
But a major attack last month in Damaturu, the heavily fortified capital of northeastern Yobe state, cast doubt on that claim.
Shekau claimed responsibility for the attack in a video released on Sunday.
On December 14, Jonathan will have to decide whether to extend the state of emergency when its six-month mandate expires.
Some analysts say the emergency measures and the military assault have been effective, while others counter that Boko Haram could still regroup and resume attacks on a range of targets across the country.