Home inContext Boko Haram Reverts to Old Tactics Amid Setbacks

Boko Haram Reverts to Old Tactics Amid Setbacks

Michael Johnson

At least 34 people were killed during an attack in the capital of Nigeria’s Borno State on Tuesday when, according to witnesses, a female suicide bomber detonated her explosives in a crowded marketplace. While no group claimed responsibility for the incident in Maiduguri, the bombing bore the hallmarks of killings committed by Boko Haram in northwestern Nigeria.

Earlier in the day, 20 insurgents in cars and on horseback opened fire in the village of Ngamdu about 60 miles away, killing eight people. Military officials confirmed the deaths and noted that soldiers had been deployed to the area to deter attacks. A similar shooting last week also killed 45 people in the Borno town of Njaba; and five coordinated bombs targeted the same Maiduguri marketplace on Saturday, killing more than 100 civilians.

A Chadian soldier poses for a picture during an operation against insurgent group Boko Haram on February 26 near the Nigerian border. (Photo: Reuters)

Even as Boko Haram continues to target civilians in Borno, the group has suffered limited, yet tangible territorial setbacks in recent weeks. Nigerian government forces have retaken control of Adamawa State south of Borno and launched a new offensive west of Borno in Yobe State. Meanwhile, Chad and Niger have pushed many Boko Haram fighters back over the border in coordination with Nigerian troops, helping to encircle the terrorists. Accordingly, the Islamists have reverted to asymmetric attacks on softer targets and smaller raids in areas under government control.

The government of Nigeria, led by Goodluck Jonathan, has faced sharp criticism amid the killing of an estimated 10,000 people in Boko Haram related violence over the past year. But, his representatives in Washington blamed the West for not supporting Abuja against the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate. Now the tide may finally be turning against the terrorist organization as international forces surround the group and exert pressure on their leadership. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau also pledged allegiance to Islamic State this weekend, in an effort to gain support from foreign jihadists and lift morale following the recent setbacks.