On 19 February, an improvised bomb exploded near a church in Suleja, a town in Niger State, but on the edge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The blast occurred on Morocco Road, at the heart of the commercial area of the town, wounding five people and damaging five cars.
According to Uyi Idugboe, pastor of the Christ Embassy Church, the blast struck just a few minutes after the church service had started at 10 am. He said a member of the church, who had gone out to check that his vehicle was locked, spotted a suspicious-looking package lying between two cars. He promptly alerted everyone to stay indoors.
Said Idugboe: “When we were alerted, about 25 minutes before the detonation, we called everybody inside the church. That is why we don’t have casualties”.
The Commissioner of Police in Niger State, Alhaji Ibrahim Maishanu, reported that no one was killed by the blast. Yushua Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also confirmed that: “No person died in the Suleja explosion. One person was seriously injured and is now in hospital. Four victims had minor injuries while five vehicles were damaged”.
Responding to the incident, large numbers of soldiers, police and other security operatives soon cordoned off the area, to enable bomb experts commence investigations.
Churches in Suleja and nearby Madalla have been targeted repeatedly by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which says it is fighting to establish Islamic rule in the northern states of the country. Its most recent attack in the area was the Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church in Madalla, which killed about 43 people and wounded 57.
However, security operatives have arrested the suspected mastermind of that attack. More recently, the State Security Service (SSS) reportedly raided the home of one Bashiru Madalla, identified as coordinator of Boko Haram’s operations in the FCT and Niger State; but the suspect is said to be on the run.
On 29 January, gunmen believed to be members of the militant Islamist sect known as Boko Haram, bombed a police station at Naibawa district outside Kano city, capital of Kano State.
Local sources said the attack took place near the Naibawa motor park, a major bus terminal on the fringe of the city. They said a large number of gunmen stormed the area at prayer time, hurled an explosive at the police station and then opened fire on it. They said as the police returned fire, a gun duel ensued.
The Commissioner of Police in Kano State, Mr Ibrahim Idris, said the blast caused damage to “part of the police station”. He also confirmed that the blast was followed by about an hour-long gun fight, adding that: “We were able to push them out of the area”.
Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria and populated by about 10 million people, recently came under a siege mounted by members of Boko Haram. The sect said it is fighting to install Islamic governments under strict and comprehensive sharia law across northern Nigeria.
On 20 January, it staged multiple bomb and gun attacks across Kano city, mostly targeting police stations, and killing over 200 persons.
On 26 January, the presumed leader of the sect, Abubakar Shekau, posted an audio tape on the Internet threatened to kill more security personnel, kidnap their families and also attack western-style educational institutions.
On 28 January, the group’s spokesman, Abul Qaqa, told some journalists on phone that security agents had arrested “many” of its members in Sokoto and demanded their “immediate and unconditional” release.
Qaqa he urged senior citizens in Sokoto and neighbouring states to intervene in order to avert a repeat of “the big attack in Kano State”. He said: “This is an open letter to the Emir of Sokoto (Sultan of Sokoto) Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 111, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal and the Acting Governor of Sokoto State.
The Sultan of Sokoto is the spiritual leader of all Muslims in Nigeria and has expressed disapproval of Boko Haram’s violence, publicly and repeatedly. Speaker Tambuwal, who hails from the village of Tambuwal in Sokoto State, is the highest ranking figure from the state within the Federal Government.
On 26 January, unidentified gunmen waylaid and killed 15 traders and then set their bodies ablaze near Birnin Magaji town in Zamfara State.
Local sorces said the traders were attacked as they were returning from a market in neighbouring Katsina State. They said the gunmen, numbering about 100, sprang from the bush and forced the open truck, in which the traders were travelling, to stop.
The Commissioner of Police in Zamfara State, Mr Tambari Yabo Mohammed, said: “The armed robbers waylaid the traders travelling back in an open truck and opened fire on them. They then loaded the truck with 14 bodies and burnt them”. He said a 15th victim died in hospital.
Although the Police chief suggested the attack may have been a case of armed robbery, local sources said it may be linked to some earlier incidents in Lingyado village in Zamfara State.
On 10 August 2011, vigilantes from Lingyado had evicted a group of people from the village whom they suspected of being behind a series of cattle and other robberies. Those evicted regrouped and attacked the village on 2 October, killing 23 villagers.
Commenting on that attack, the governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, had said: “From the information I have received, the attackers who are nomadic Fulani, invited their comrades from as far as Central African Republic, for the raid”.
The men, armed with AK-47 rifles and explosives, invaded the riverside community after midnight and blew up the main gate to the house, using an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Some residents reported hearing a loud blast around 12.45am.
Reports said the invaders thereafter ransacked the house, looting vital property which they loaded unto their speed boats. The invaders then torched the multi-million naira building and conference centre, as well as a property owned by the minister’s mother, before fleeing the community.
The motive of the attackers was not yet established. Some residents speculated that they may have been armed robbers, acting on allegations that the minister had kept a large amount of money in the house. Others said the attack may have been staged by ex-militants or other interests in the Niger Delta, who had accused the minister of “not carrying them along” in the award of contracts by his ministry.
However, Orubebe himself alleged that the attack was politically motivated. He claimed that, from the report available to him, the attackers were loyalists of the Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva. He said: “They claimed that they carried out the action to protest my roles in the exclusion of Governor Timipre Sylva from the governorship election in February. They said I was part of the syndicate that denied the governor the second ticket”.
Governor Sylva, speaking through his Commissioner for Information, Mr. Nathan Egba, promptly dismissed the Minister’s allegation as unfounded and baseless.
On receiving the report of the incident, the Commissioner of Police in Delta State, Mr. Ibrahim Tsafe, directed the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Burutu Local Government Area to send men to Ogbobagbene community, for first-hand assessment of the incident and also for speedy investigations.
On 23 January, the Kano State Police Command reported that 29 policemen were among the 186 persons it confirmed killed, in the multiple bomb attacks staged by the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, on Friday 20 January.
In a statement, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Ibrahim Idris, said apart from the police casualties, the breakdown of other victims was as follows: three operatives of the State Security Service (SSS), one Customs officer, two Immigration officers, one journalist and 150 other civilians.
The statement listed the areas targeted by the attackers as the Police zonal headquarters along Bayero University Road, the Farm Centre and Zaria Road police divisions, the Immigration office located at Farm Centre, SSS headquarters at Giginya quarters, the official home of the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 1 (Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States) and St Louis Secondary School. It said the attacks were launched simultaneously by several suicide bombers.
The statement further disclosed that the state Police Command had recovered 10 motor vehicles loaded with improvised explosive devices, in different parts of the metropolis.
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.
On 6 January, two students of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) were shot dead by three gunmen, suspected to be members of the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, in Maiduguri, Borno State.
Briefing newsmen on the serial attacks on residences of people living in Dala and Mairi Wards of Maiduguri Metropolis during the week, the Commissioner of Police in Borno State, Mr Simeon Midenda, said the students were shot at about 8pm on Friday night, in their Mairi Ward residences, south of the university campus.
He said the attakers came in an unmarked vehicle with two Kalashnikov rifles hidden under their flowing gowns, and that they fired several shots into the heads and chests of the students.
The police chief said the sectarian attacks in the area had taken a different dimension, with gunmen targeting not only the patrol vehicles of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) and the police, but also the residences of policemen and Christians in the Jere, Bama and Biu Local Government Areas of the state.
The three council areas, along with Maiduguri Metropolitan and Gambouru/Ngala, are the parts of Borno State over which President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on 31 December 2011. On the whole, that declaration covered 15 local government areas in four northern states of the country
Mr Midenda said no arrests had been made in connection with the assassination of the students, but that investigations were underway.
Security forces battle Boko Haram in Potiskum, Yobe State, after sect’s attack on police headquarters
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.
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”.
On 12 December, the police in Rivers State reported that it had smashed a four-man gang of kidnappers in the Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state. The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Suleiman Abba, said the kidnappers, who had been responsible for most abductions in the state, were gunned down during an exchange of fire with policemen.
According to the Commissioner, the police got an alert that the suspected criminals were in an uncompleted building in the area and the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) for Oyigbo immediately sent his men after them. He said on sighting the police, the criminals opened fire. In the ensuing gun battle, four of them were shot dead.
While displaying the corpses of the kidnappers, the police chief gave the name of their leader as Chukwuebuka Okorie of Umuozu Umuapu in Isiala Ngwa, Abia State. He said Chukwuebuka had been “a criminal associate” of the late Obioma Nwankwo, more notoriously known as Osisikankwu, a dreaded robber and kidnapper who was gunned down by the military task force “Operation Jubilee” in Abia State in December 2010.