Politics & News

Suicide Attacks in Nigeria Spark Alarm over West Africa’s Security

A series of suicide attacks killed at least 18 people and injured 30 others in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state on Saturday, according to local authorities.

Suspected female suicide bombers targeted a wedding, a funeral and a hospital in what seemed coordinated attacks, reported the Associated Press (AP). Although no group claimed the responsibility for the attacks, they have raised fears over the possible resurgence of the extremist group Boko Haram.

A Series of Attacks

Barkindo Saidu, director general of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, told reporters that the first suicide bomber blew up a device during a wedding ceremony in the northeastern town of Gwoza. After minutes, another explosion occurred near the General Hospital. The third bombing took place at the funeral service.

Deaths included children and pregnant women. According to Saidu, at least 30 people were wounded and 19 of them seriously injured. Their injuries include abdominal ruptures and skull fractures.

Suicide Attacks in Nigeria Sparks Alarm over West Africa’s Security
Victims of Nigeria’s attacks

Official Response

In a statement, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu said the attacks were “desperate acts of terror” and “an isolated episode.” According to BBC, Tinubu vowed to take firm action against the culprits, confirming that the attack had not undermined the recent gains achieved against militants.

The President’s spokesperson said in a statement on Facebook: “The president declares that the purveyors of wanton violence shall have a certain encounter with justice, and that these cowardly attacks are only but an isolated episode as his government will not allow the nation to slither into an era of fear, tears, sorrow, and blood.”

The military imposed a curfew after the attacks.

Boko Haram

The extremist group Boko Haram and its splinter group, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), are the most active militant groups in Borno state. The region has gone through a decade of violence as a result of an insurgency launched by Boko Haram in 2009.

While Boko Haram has lost ground in recent years, they continue to launch frequent attacks on rural communities in Nigeria. Borno state has seen an increase in attacks by suicide bombing and improvised explosive devices in the last four months.

Suicide Attacks in Nigeria Sparks Alarm over West Africa’s Security

Kidnapping Girls

Boko Haram has gained infamy when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in April 2014 from the town of Chibok in Borno state. Shortly after, the group used the first female suicide bomber to execute an attack in June. Around 100 girls are still in Boko Haram’s captivity. Since then, at least 1500 students have been kidnapped across Nigeria.

A study found that the extremist group has used more female suicide bombers than any other group in history. Furthermore, recent numbers suggest that more than half of all Boko Haram suicide bombers are female.

The recent attacks in Gwoza have raised suspicions that they were committed by people the militants have kidnapped over the years. They also sparked alarm that the group is trying to re-establish itself and display its ability to do damage.

Suicide Attacks in Nigeria Sparks Alarm over West Africa’s Security
Victims of Nigeria’s suicide attacks

Nigeria’s Significance

According to the United States Institute of Peace, Nigeria is the only country in the region that has the ability to act as a stabilizing force in West Africa, despite its security and economic challenges.

The West African oil giant plays a major role in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Tinubu is the bloc’s chairman and Nigeria hosts the ECOWAS Commission, Parliament and Court of Justice in its capital Abuja. It has also been the main contributor to the bloc’s peacekeeping missions.

Security in West Africa

West Africa and the Sahel region have experienced eight military coups in four years, including in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali. The military juntas ruling those countries are less willing to cooperate with Western powers, namely the US. As a result, American troops have been forced to leave Niger and Chad, undermining the US counterterrorism efforts in the region.

Suicide Attacks in Nigeria Sparks Alarm over West Africa’s Security
ECOWAS defense chiefs

At a meeting in Abuja in June, West African defense chiefs proposed a plan to deploy a 5,000-strong standby force to address security crises in the region. According to AP, the plan also aimed to prevent further coups in West African states. Analysts suggested that the plan could face challenges due to shortage of funds and divisions within ECOWAS.

However, the return of suicide attacks to Borno has raised concerns over the security situation in West Africa. The previous insurgency of Boko Haram, which has spilled over the Lake of Chad, has created a humanitarian crisis, killing over 35,000 people and displacing 2.6 million others.

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