A violent group called Boko Haram is worsening instability in Africa's most populous country
igerian police patrol as people attend prayers marking the muslim festival of Eid al-Adha in the capital Abuja / Reuters
An alleged spokesman for northern Islamic terrorist movement Boko Haram, speaking to Agence France-Presse, took responsibility for bloody attacks on Friday in Damaturu in Yobe state and Maiduguri in Borno state as well as in two smaller towns. The attacks appear coordinated and involved car bombs, at least one a suicide attack, and young men using machine guns and improvised explosives.
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Reported numbers killed currently range from sixty-five to one hundred and fifty, mostly in Damaturu. (Casualties in Nigeria are often understated.) The attacks targeted police stations and other government facilities, as is the usual pattern involving Boko Haram. This time, however, there were also attacks on the Christian quarter in Damaturu. Subsequently, over the weekend, the U.S. Embassy in Abuja issued a public warning of possible Boko Haram attacks on the city's three largest hotels, where U.S. citizens normally stay. A Boko Haram attack on facilities identified with Americans would be new and could indicate that it has concluded that the United States is allied with the Abuja government.
AFP quotes the alleged Boko Haram spokesman as saying "We will continue attacking federal government formations until security forces stop persecuting our members and vulnerable civilians."
Since the inauguration of the southern Christian Goodluck Jonathan as president in May, Boko Haram attacks in the northeast have occurred almost daily. The group has also claimed responsibility for bombings of the national police headquarters and the UN headquarters building in Abuja. Security fears led Jonathan, in effect, to cancel the public celebration of Nigeria's fifty-first anniversary of its independence in October.