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Pirates attack ship, kidnap two, off Nigerian coast

On 28 February, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that armed pirates opened fire on a cargo ship off the Nigerian coast, kidnapped the captain and chief engineer, and robbed the crew before fleeing. The attack also left one of the 14 crew members missing and another injured.

Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said about eight gunmen attacked the Dutch-owned, Curacao-flagged refrigerated cargo ship near the coast. He said he had received no word yet on any ransom demands.

The IMB said this incident is a continuation of serial piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. In September 2011, the group had warned that the seas off the Republic of Benin, Nigeria’s neighbour to the west, were becoming a new piracy “hotspot”, partly due to the deficiencies of maritime security arrangements in the region.

Choong said: “The attacks off the Nigerian coast are very violent and they are increasing, So far we have seen seven attacks off Nigeria this year and one off Benin. So that makes eight since the beginning of the year and we believe many more attacks may have gone unreported”.

However, in one of the recent incidents in which a tanker was hijacked, the IMB said Nigerian security vessels intercepted the ship and rescued its crew.


Boko Haram raids prison in Kogi State, kills guard, frees inmates

On 15 February, gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, raided a prison in Koton-Karfi, Kogi State, killing a security man and freeing their colleagues who had been held in the facility

Local sources said the attackers, numbering over 20, stormed the prison on motor bikes around 7 pm, immediately after the Magrib prayer. They shot a security man at the gate, killing him instantly. They then blew up the main gate of the prison with an Improvised Explosive Device and went inside.

While shooting to scare any prison officers that may have thought to challenge them, they freed some of their detained colleagues. After the gunmen had left the premises with their members, other prisoners also took advantage of the situation and escaped. The sources said the entire operation lasted about 30 minutes. The number of Boko Haram suspects freed, and of other prisoners that subsequently escaped, is not yet known.

This is Boko Haram’s third attack on a prison in the last 18 months. On 7 September 2010, about 50 Boko Haram gunmen attacked the prison in Bauchi, capital of Bauchi State, enabling the escape of 721 out of the 759 prisoners then held in the facility, mostly suspects arrested after the sect’s uprising in July 2009. Again on 22 April 2011, Boko Haram gunmen broke into the jail in Yola, Adamawa State, and freed 14 prisoners.

Pirates kill captain, chief engineer of cargo ship off Nigerian coast, IMB reports

On 13 February, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that pirates had shot dead the captain and the chief engineer on a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria.

A notice on the IMB website said: “Armed pirates chased and fired upon a drifting bulk carrier. Vessel raised alarm and headed towards Lagos. All crew except the bridge team took shelter in the citadel. Due to the continuous firing, the captain and the chief engineer were shot”.

The website notice said this incident, which occurred about 110 nautical miles (126 miles) south of Lagos, is the latest in a string of attacks on vessels off the Nigerian coast.

On 9 February, pirates hijacked a tanker about 80 nautical miles (92 miles) from Cotonou, capital of Nigeria’s westward neighbour, the Republic of Benin, the bureau said. Again on Saturday, 11 February, a cargo ship about 70 nautical miles (80 miles) from Lagos, was shot at by pirates on two boats, who chased it for 25 minutes before giving up.

Last year, the IMO reported a 28 percent increase in pirate attacks on vessels off the West African coast, compared to a year earlier. It said 64 attacks were reported in 2011, up from 46 in 2010.

Suicide bomb attacks on military establishments foiled in Kaduna, Kaduna State

On 7 February, suicide bombers targeted two military bases as another bomb detonated at a busy overpass near a motor park in Kaduna, capital of Kaduna State.

According to a statement by the spokesman of the 1 Mechanised Division headquarters, Lt. Col. Abubakar Edun, two attackers driving bomb-laden cars (a Sienna Toyota space bus and a Honda Accord) struck at the headquarters of the 1 Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army at about noon.

Refusing to stop, they overran the security post and the lawn leading to the headquarters complex. A soldier opened fire on the Toyota car, causing the car to swerve and explode at a car park. But the Honda car did not explode.

Edun said: “The Honda Accord which did not explode was loaded with ten numbers of 20 litres of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), four numbers of 30litres loaded with IEDs and two numbers of large peak milk containers also loaded with IEDs”. He said the bomber in the Toyota Sienna died in the attack and that the Army recorded no casualty.

In his own account of the incident, the Nigerian Army Headquarters spokesman Maj-Gen Raphael Isa told newsmen in Abuja that a suicide bomber dressed in a military uniform attempted to drive a car bomb into the 1 Mechanized Division headquarters. Soldiers guarding the gate opened fire on the man, who died from gunshot wounds.

“The soldiers repelled the attack and were able to stop what will have been a suicide bombing. However, after firing (at) the suicide bomber who tried to force his way, the bomb exploded and shattered the glasses that adorn the frontage of the headquarters. The suicide bomber was the only casualty,” Isa, who is the director of Army public relations, said.

Soon after the attack at the 1 Division headquarters, two other blasts went off near the Air Force base and at the Kawo flyover.

On the incident at the Air Force base, Air Force spokesman Air Commodore Yusuf Anas said some attackers tried but failed to get through the gate. They then threw an explosive about 500 meters from the outer fence of the base.

Anas said: “They used all these locally made bombs. They used fertilizer and some things to generate some serious detonation”.

At the Kawo flyover, the explosion occurred directly opposite the Kawo Motor park, which is the largest in the city. The popular Kawo weekly market which holds only on Tuesdays was in its peak trading hours, bustling with traders and buyers at the time the bomb exploded. Sources said many people were injured while running for their dear lives.

Later in the day, the militant Islamist group, widely known as Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attacks. A man claiming to be the sect’s spokesman, reportedly told journalists by telephone in Maiduguri that: “Government and security agencies have turned against us and betrayed the truce we offered. That is why we attacked Kaduna. And henceforth, we will always attack any town or city where our members are exposed or arrested”.

Gunmen attack Police station in Kano, Kano State

On 6 February, gunmen and bombers, suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, set the Sharada police station on fire, in Kano, capital of Kano State.

A senior police officer said the police station had been burned down by attackers armed with explosives. He said in the shootout between the attackers and the police, a police officer was shot in the leg.

The attack reportedly occurred around 6pm, just before the commencement of a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on the city following the 20 January multiple bomb and gun attacks that killed over 200 people. One resident said she saw the police station on fire from her house and that more policemen and soldiers were later deployed to the area. Others said spent bullets and used explosives littered the grounds around the area, after the gun duel between the attackers and the police.

The Kano State Police Command confirmed the incident, saying one police man was hurt, but it was yet to give further details.

Local sources also said they heard a separate gun battle in the Mariri area of the city. Some said the sounds of gunfire came from an area suspected to be a Boko Haram hideout on the outskirts of Kano. They said a security team had apparently raided a home in the neighbourhood, leading to a shootout with the occupants. Others said the gunshots seem to have come from the Danladi Nasidi police station in the area. There had been no official statement from the police.

Attacks in Bauchi State: At least 10 killed in Tafawa Balewa

Map of Nigeria highlighting Bauchi State

On 22 January, at least 10 persons, including a soldier and a policeman, were confirmed killed by gunmen in early morning attacks on a community in Tafawa Balewa town, Bauchi State. Tafawa Balewa is 86km south-west of the state capital, Bauchi city.

Early reports had said the attackers targeted a police station and that the police repelled the attack, followed by prolonged gunfire, apparently from a duel between the attackers and security forces. But an update confirmed a community was also targeted, with at least 10 people killed and 12 wounded.

Barrister Bukata Zhadi, an elder and community leader in the largely Christian Sayawa ethnic group, said several persons were still unaccounted for. “We are going round the town checking”, he said. “So far, we have ten people dead and 12 wounded”.

Providing some details of the incident, he said the attackers threw improvised hand grenades into houses in the community while people were still sleeping, and shot at those trying to flee.

Police later responded to the attacks. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Mohammed Barau said: “In the exchange of fire that ensued, a policeman, a soldier and eight unidentified civilians were killed by stray bullets”. It is not clear whether these were the same as the 10 casualties Zhadi had mentioned. The police spokesman said six suspects had been arrested.

Zhadi, who is the Secretary of the Sayawa Elders’ Council, said witnesses believe the attackers were Muslim Hausa-Fulani. The predominantly Christian Sayawa have had a long history of conflicts with Muslim Hausa-Fulani in the area. On 27 January 2011, suspected Hausa-Fulani invaders sacked about 50 villages in the Tafawa Balewa and Bagoro Local Government Areas of the state. Over the three-month period leading up to 19 November 2011, a total of 12 people were killed in several attacks on Gangere village in Bogoro Local Government Area.

In other updates, the three explosions heard in the state capital, Bauchi, around 2.30 am, are said not to have been bomb blasts. Early reports had suggested they were probably part of an attack by the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, but some later reports said they were caused when a faulty electric transformer blew up.

Gunmen kill 4 police officers and 4 others in Potiskum, Yobe State

Map of Nigeria showing Yobe State

On 10 January, gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram shot and killed eight persons, including four police officers and a seven-year-old child, in Potiskum, 120 km west of the Yobe state capital, Damaturu.

The Commissioner of Police in Yobe State, Mr Lawal Tanko, said six gunmen opened fire on their victims at a bar. “Suspected Islamic sect members attacked the drinking joint and killed eight people, four of whom were policemen”, Mr Lawal told Reuters. “The bodies of the deceased have been deposited at the Potiskum General Hospital”.

However, some local sources said those killed in the beer garden shooting included five policemen who had gone to drink, and one bartender. They also said the attackers sped off on a motorcycle immediately after the shooting.

Potiskum, the commercial nerve centre of Yobe State, is in the part of the state that President Goodluck Jonathan placed under emergency rule on 31 December, but this is the second episode of violence in the town in the 10 days since the emergency was declared.

On 6 January, suspected members of Boko Haram launched gun and bomb attacks on the police headquarters in the town. The attackers also robbed and burnt two banks, and threw a bomb into a police barracks, but no one in the barracks was hurt. Security forces responded with a gun battle that raged through the night.

Hundreds of residents in the areas around the police headquarters fled their homes for fear of being caught in the fighting while others left the town entirely.

Mosque and school attacked in Benin, Edo State: 5 feared dead, thousands displaced

Map of Nigeria showing Edo State

On 10 January, a mosque and an Islamic school were attacked and set ablaze in Benin City, capital of Edo State, with five persons feared dead.

The razing of the mosque and school follows attacks on two mosques in the city the previous day, the first at the Hausa Quarters along Sakponba Road and the second – targeting the Benin Central Mosque – on Kings Square (Ring Road). A Red Cross official said 10 people were wounded during those attacks, but other sources reported up to 40. Police had to fire tear-gas to disperse the attackers, whom it described as “miscreants” not genuine protesters.

On the more recent burning of the mosque and school, Police sources had initially reported that one person was killed and 10 persons arrested.  But the Secretary General of the Nigerian Red Cross in Edo state, Mr Dan Enowoghomwenwa, later said five people, comprising both the attackers and their targets, had been killed. Said Enowoghomwenwa: “We have recorded so far five deaths — on both sides, those that have been attacked and the attackers”.

Nigerian Red Cross officials said predominantly Muslim northerners were being registered at police stations and at the army barracks, to which they had fled. A leader of the Hausa community in the city told the BBC’s Hausa Service that 7,000 northerners were seeking refuge in the police and army barracks, but Enowoghomwenwa said the number of internally displaced persons in various places was over 10,000.

One source reported that the police and the Edo State government are faced with what appears to be a growing IDP crisis, and may be making plans to assist the Northerners return to their states of origin until the security situation returns to normal.

There are widespread concerns that the mosque attacks and IDP crisis, coming after repeated attacks on Christians in some northeby the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram in some northern states, could further aggravate sectarian tensions in the country.

Security forces battle Boko Haram in Potiskum, Yobe State, after sect’s attack on police headquarters

Map of Nigeria showing Yobe State

On 6 January, an armed band, believed to be members of the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, launched gun and bomb attacks on the police headquarters in Potiskum, the commercial nerve centre of Yobe State. Police authorities said there were “some deaths and injuries”, but there is yet no detailed report on the number of casualties or the scale of damage.

Some reports said the attackers robbed and burnt two banks in the town, and also fired shots and threw a bomb into a nearby police barracks, but no one in the barracks was hurt. They said security forces responded with a gun battle that raged through the night.

The Commissioner of Police in Yobe State, Mr Lawan Tanko, confirmed the incident to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), but said his headquarters was yet to receive details. Potiskum is about 120 km west of the state capital, Damaturu.

In the wake of the fighting, dozens of soldiers were deployed across the town. Hundreds of residents in the areas around the police headquarters fled their homes for fear of being caught in the cross-fire.

Potiskum is in the part of Yobe State which President Goodluck Jonathan placed under emergency rule on 31 December 2011, but this is the second episode of violence in the area since the emergency was declared.

On 4 January, a blast hit a pub in ‘Khandahar’, a popular area that has many bars and brothels, in the Yobe State capital, Damaturu. Gunmen also shot and killed two people in the city. The attacks came at the expiration of the three-day ultimatum which the Boko Haram sect gave to Christians and southerners, to leave the majority Muslim northern parts of the country.

20 Igbo traders killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen in Mubi, Adamawa State

Map of Nigeria showing location of Mubi

On 6 January, about 20 people were killed when gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram attacked Igbo traders in a town hall in Mubi, Adamawa State. At least another 15 people were wounded.

Mubi, the second largest city in Adamawa State, is about 175 km south of the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, which had been the base of Boko Haram and the epicentre of its attacks.

According to the Commissioner of Police in Adamawa State, Mr Ade Shinaba, the attack targeted a town hall where Igbo traders were holding a meeting before opening up their shops for business. The meeting was called to raise money for transporting the body of an Igbo man shot dead by gunmen on motorbikes the previous evening, back to his hometown for burial. The Igbo traders, some resident in Mubi for decades, are known to be Christians. Survivors said the attackers chanted: ‘God is great, God is great’ as they were shooting into the hall.

From Yola, the capital of Adamawa State, the BBC’s Abdullahi Tasiu reported that in the aftermath of the shooting, many Igbo traders in Mubi had closed their shops and were planning to flee the town.

The police say no arrests had been made and no group had claimed responsibility, but both police authorities and local residents believe the gunmen must have been members of Boko Haram. The sect had claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church in Madalla near Abuja, which killed more than 40 people.

After President Goodluck Jonathan’s 31 December declaration of a state of emergency in 15 local government areas across four states, a Boko Haram spokesman, on 2 January, gave Christians and southerners a three-day ultimatum to leave the majority Muslim northern states of the country or face death. On 2 January, the Police Headquarters in Abuja dismissed that ultimatum and urged all law-abiding citizens to get on with their normal businesses wherever they lived in the country.

Three days later, on 5 January, unknown gunmen attacked a Deeper Life Bible church in Gombe, capital of Gombe State, killing at least six worshippers including the pastor’s wife, and wounding about 10 others. Less than 24 hours later, the attack on the Igbo traders in Mubi followed.

Gombe and Adamawa were not initially considered high-risk states and none of their local government areas were covered by the declared emergency.

Many Muslim leaders have condemned Boko Haram’s attacks, stressing that Islam does not tolerate attacks on non-Muslims, and especially their places of worship.

On 27 December, the Sultan of Sokoto and spiritual leader of all the Muslims in Nigeria, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, declared:  “There is no conflict between Christians and Muslims, between Islam and Christianity. It is a conflict between evil people and good people and the good people are more than the evil doers”.

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