Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 21, 2012

More inter-religious violence in Nigeria

Filed under: Radicalization,Risk Assessment,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 21, 2012

Map was developed by Spiegel Online. See a collection of BBC maps of Nigeria examining wealth, health, ethnicity, literacy, and known oil deposits.


People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad (Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad), better known by its Hausa name Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility for another set of coordinated attacks in Northern Nigeria occurring late afternoon Friday.

According to Al-Jazeera:

A series of bombings and attacks claimed by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram has left at least 120 dead and many more injured in northern Nigeria’s largest city, witnesses and the Red Cross have said.

“Many agencies are involved in the evacuation of corpses from the streets,” a Nigerian Red Cross spokesman said on Saturday, under condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly, following Friday night’s attacks.

“From our tally, we have 121 so far,” he said.

Other death tolls are higher. Maude Gwadabe, a journalist in Kano, told Al Jazeera by phone that he had seen at least 140 dead bodies.

Gwadabe said the disparity was due to confusion in the aftermath of Friday’s attacks and that victims had been taken to different hospitals, homes and treatment clinics.

“At least 140 people died. The Red Cross and Nigerian emergency services have collected the victims and brought them to one hospital [Murtala Central Hospital], and indeed, hospital officials say 140 people were killed,” Gwadabe said.

In a statement released on Friday, Boko Haram claimed responsibilty for the attacks and said the blasts were revenge for the recent arrests of its members in Kano.

(Note: The death toll reported by Al-Jazeera is much higher than that currently — 10:00AM Eastern — being reported by Reuters or AFP.  As I read reports originating in Nigeria my current assessment is that Al-Jazeera is closer to accurate. NEW: BBC is confirming at least 120 deaths. SUNDAY UPDATE: The Nation (Nigeria) newspaper is reporting 162 fatalities.  LATE SUNDAY: Reuters is reporting “at least 178 deaths.”)

On Thursday — between attacks on Wednesday and yesterday — an op-ed in the Vanguard, a leading Nigerian newspaper, argued:

Now let us take a critical look at the present scenario: Boko Haram is bombing almost everywhere in Nigeria: churches, United Nations Building, Police Headquarters, etc. Members of the sect are Muslims.

None of them is a Christian, and they make audacious statements which no sane individual should utter. Consider some of them: “Western Education is Sin”; “Christians should leave the North within three days else they will be eliminated”; “there will be no respite unless and until Nigeria becomes an Islamic state”, etc.

But as distasteful as the posture of the Boko Haram sect is, it seems not to have occurred to the Southern Christians that there is a grand agenda to extinguish the Southerners from the entity called Nigeria. It has not occurred to them that they should close ranks, forge a common front and fight the mother of all battles for their survival.

On Wednesday, according to the Anglican Church of Nigeria website, the Primate of Nigeria responded to a letter received from the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Primate Okoh stated that all hands are on deck, the National assembly is concerned, the president is having sleepless nights and the Church is already facing serious temptation even though the Church does not initiate hostility. The head of the Anglican Church said the intense attack of Boko Haram is really tempting the Christians whether to continue to maintain peace, always turning the other cheek ,or fight back to find their safety.

He therefore made a passionate appeal to leaders in the country who can reach out to Boko Haram to dissuade them from dastardly acts of killing innocent Christian’s souls, asking them to dialogue with government if they have any axe to grind with her and leave the Church alone.

He said the attempt to drag Nigerians into militancy is something Nigerians must resist.

Roughly 20 million Nigerians are in communion with the Anglican Church, out of a total population of approximately 140 million.   Most demographers indicate that 50 percent of Nigerians are Muslim, 48 percent are Christian.

As outlined previously, the emergence of — or widely-held perception of — an explicit inter-religious war in Nigeria would likely have significant ramifications well beyond Nigeria.


According to AFP: Gunmen overnight raided a northern Nigerian town with a history of sectarian violence and killed at least nine people, a traditional leader said Sunday.

“We are going round the town checking. So far we have nine people dead and 12 wounded,” Bukata Zhyadi, a traditional ruler of the mainly Christian Sayawa ethnic group, told AFP.

He blamed the attack in Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi state on the Muslim Hausa-Fulani ethnic group.

He said the attackers hurled home-made hand grenades into houses while people were sleeping and shot at those trying to escape.

“Some were shot while trying to escape and some died as a result of the explosives,” he told AFP by phone.

Tafawa Balewa is located along the so-called middle belt between Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.


According to Reuters: Explosions struck two churches in the northern Nigerian city of Bauchi on Sunday, witnesses said, destroying one of them completely, although there were no immediate reports of casualties.

According to Vanguard: Two days after Boko Haram’s coordinated attack in Kano that left over 162 people dead, the radical Islamic sect is currently attacking Bauchi town and its environs. (See map above for location.)

According to reports, explosions were said to have rocked near IBB square, Jahun area and near a railway line in Bauchi township.

A  police station in Tafawa Balewa local government area and another military checkpoint was attacked at Marar Rabar Liman Katagun.   Vanguard cannot ascertain the number of casulties in the attacks.


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Comment by William R. Cumming

January 21, 2012 @ 3:55 pm

Partition for Nigeria or just length civil war? Or both?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

January 22, 2012 @ 6:31 am

If the current conflict in Nigeria is characterized as a civil war or ethnic conflict or some other mostly domestic situation, then the homeland security implications are minimal. If it becomes understood — both domestically and internationally — as a war between Christians and Muslims, there are myriad homeland security implications.


Following is an excerpt from a Saturday opinion piece in the Daily Times (Nigeria) by Leo Igwe, a frequent commentator and well-known atheist. He is currently a research fellow at the Department of Religion, University of Bayreuth in Germany

Most analysts continue to shy away from the truth- the bitter truth that Boko Haram is an Islamist group with a political agenda. Boko Haram is a jihadist organisation that has declared war against anybody that is really or imagined to be opposed to its cause. Instead many analysts continue to blame the attacks and crisis orchestrated by this militant sect on the injustices, poverty and marginalisation of the North. Some commentators have made it seem as if Boko Haram are northern equivalent of the Niger Delta militants fighting to address social, economic and political marginalization of the region. Even when the group has made it clear that they are opposed to western education and want Sharia implemented in Nigeria. Boko Haram militants are not asking for jobs. They are not agitating for any finacial reward or compensation. Their cause is religious. Thier agenda is Islamist.

They are just a bunch of Islamic militants and nihilists who want to turn Nigeria into an Islamic empire by force.

Nigerians must begin to acknowledge the jihadist agenda of Boko Haram and try to find out how the teachings of Islam, particularly as contained in the Koran or the Hadith, were propagated or twisted to breed this terrible monster. We need to know how these militants are being motivated to embark on this self destructive mission. We need to identify the cells and networks that are recruiting, training and brainwashing these militants.

We in Nigeria must stop decieving ourselves by saying that the Boko Haram attacks have nothing to do with religion. Or that they have nothing to do with Islam. This is not true. Though people can carry out such heinous attacks for other reasons, or be motivated by other secular causes. From the pattern of their attacks, the Boko Haram phenomenon has a lot to do with religion, particularly Islam. It is the Nigerian version of al-Qaeda. The militants are not bombing police stations, UN building and churches for the sake of it. They are not agitating for Sharia law for the fun of it. The Boko Haram militants are fighting a holy war. They are prosecuting a jihad for which they expect to be rewarded abundantly in the hereafter with some virgins. That is why the group has not run out of suicide bombers. That is why they have their operational base in the muslim majority states. Boko Haram militants have been brainwashed by few Islamic clerics to believe that they are ‘Hezbollah’- the army of Allah. They have been deluded to think that these suicide bomb attacks and other murderous acts they carry out are religious duties in line with the will of Allah and in furtherance of Islam. Nigerian authorities must acknowledge and address the ‘Islamic’ roots of the Boko Haram menace now, before it is too late.


Following is a short excerpt from a long Fatwa by Dr. Muhammad Abdul Islam Ibrahim regarding Boko Haram. Saturday this Fatwa was being published — in English, Arabic, and Hausa — in several outlets. I have linked to the Sahara Reporters site.

I am grateful to the Almighty God who granted me the opportunity to write to you today. I am pained and saddened by the violence that has visited our towns and cities for many months now. It is my hope in preparing this piece that it will have a profound impact on three primary issues. Firstly, it will dispense with the notion that Islam and Muslims are synonymous with terrorism. Secondly, it will emphasise that there is no popular movement in Northern Nigeria to split our Nation into two or along religious lines. Thirdly, and more crucially, this decree will provide clear, categorical and comprehensive injunctions that will dissuade the confused and impressionable young Muslims in northern Nigeria from entering the path of extremism and radicalism that eventually leads to the murderous outrages we have all seen; particularly the horrific attacks on a worshiping congregation on Christmas day and in their house of worship, may the souls of the departed rest in peace.

Let me make it clear from the outset, I believe strongly that Islam is a religion of peace; I wish therefore to lead the way for all Muslims, leaders and scholars in condemning these acts and all acts of terrorism as un-Islamic and an attack on all of us. Islam is a religion of peace and of love; and love is purity. The holy Qur’an tells us that “God is love” [Allahu muhibba], and the Arabic word for love used in the holy Qur’an is related to the word for seed. No plant can grow without a seed – and so no pious act can grow without love. If love is the seed of every act of piety, then how can an act of hate like terrorism please God? ‘Boko Haram’ by their actions have brought shame on Islam, they are in the minority in the Muslim ummah (brotherhood) but as is often the case, such forces are always the most vocal. It is time now in our dear country for the voice of the majority who have always been against extremism and terrorism to move away from silence and let their voices be heard too. I know it to be true that terrorism is not right – how can it be? Clearly many are confused about what is right and why; it’s all there in the Qur’an, but people don’t understand it, which is why I have taken it upon myself to set out what I know, so that those who are confused may gain true knowledge. We can all appreciate that terrorism is particularly corrosive in any society and that is why this FATWA is an absolute condemnation of terrorism, without any excuse, without any pretext and without any exceptions.


According to The Nation, the Sultan of Sokoto — the most prominent Muslim leader in Nigeria — and an alliance of often militant northern Nigerians have strongly condemned the Boko Haram attacks.

“Injustice, greed and corruption led to the negative attitudes of rancour and bickering along religious and or ethnic divides. JNI (Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Society for the Victory of Islam) and NSCIA ( Nigerian National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs) call on all Nigerians to lean back to the ways of Allah by embracing each other, shunning violence and corruption and putting all hands on deck to make peace reign in all national affairs for sustainable security and development of Nigeria. These attitudinal changes should be coupled with fervent prayers to Allah, the Most High, to deliver the Nigerian nation from the clutches of Satan, the accursed.”

The ACF (Arewa Consultative Forum, an influential association of Northern Nigerians) said in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Anthony Sani, in Kaduna that Nigerians must wake up from their slumber and assist the government in containing the “brazen insurrection against constituted authorities” by the group.

Reacting to Friday’s attack on facilities of security agencies in Kano which killed several people including a Channels Television Cameraman, the ACF asked the group to immediately put an end to such dastardly act, pointing out that the violent killing and destruction of property of fellow Nigerians is unacceptable.

Asking Boko Haram to embrace the due process of law to address perceived injustice, the ACF told members of the group that “enough is enough of the killings in the name of God or revenge”.

According to the Forum, “it is very disheartening for the nation to be revisited with multiple bomb explosions in Kano and Bauchi states, which have claimed many lives as well as property in Kano and unknown losses in Bauchi State.

“More distressing is the reported claim by Boko Haram that the sect did all these in revenge for the arrest and detention of their members by the security agencies in Kano. This is depressing because it is against tenets of any religion or faith to kill innocent people and call it revenge.

“There is no provision for a ‘head for an eye’ in the scriptures of all faiths or religions. It bears repeating that violence as means to address perceived grievance has never worked anywhere in the world. It is often counterproductive.”


There is no consensus regarding a connection between Boko Haram and other terrorist groups. Some see Boko Haram as a mostly domestic Nigerian movement. Others claim clear connections between it and the Al-Qaeda network. Whatever the reality, it is almost certainly in the self-interest of all parties to claim a connecton exists.

According to AFP, West African security experts met in Nouakchott Monday on the threat posed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its possible ties to Islamist sect Boko Haram in Nigeria, a security source said.

Nigeria and Burkina Faso have been invited to the two-day meeting between Sahel states Mali, Algeria, Mauritania and Mali which will end with talks between foreign ministers and intelligence chiefs on Tuesday, the Mauritanian security source said on condition of anonymity.

Algeria’s African Affairs Minister Abdelkader Messahel told his country’s news agency APS on Sunday that Nigeria had been included to “evaluate the links between AQIM and Boko Haram” with a view to future co-operation.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 23, 2012 @ 10:29 am

About 60 nation-states are majority Islamic worshipers. And about 60 Islamic sects. Should the focus of the rest of the world and the religious minorities in these majority Islamic nation-states be on Islam generically or the Islamic sects? The answer IMO seems simple–focus on the sects. Yet few understand the politics of the sects outside those sects and even in the Islamic World.

So here is my question to those who post and read on this blog? What is the best open source English language text on the beliefs of the Islamic Sects and do USA INTEL community personnel understand and study the differences in their beliefs?

The two largest Islamic Sects–Sunni and Shia– seem to have irreconcilable differences but as always could be wrong! And what is the real belief system of the Wahabis and outside of Saudi Arabia do they dominate the politics of any other nation-state in the Islamic world?

No rush just curious!

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Guardian exclusive: Boko Haram goals

January 28, 2012 @ 6:52 am

[…] posts have given attention to the potential for widening inter-religious conflict in Nigeria.   It has been difficult to find authoritative and coherent statements by those taking credit for […]

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