Terror attack plunges Nigeria into chaos | Africa | DW | 14.04.2014
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Terror attack plunges Nigeria into chaos

The growing violence in Nigeria appears to be an intractable problem. It is polarizing the country and there is disagreement over its causes and how to combat it.

Terror struck the Nigerian capital Abuja on Monday (14.04.201) when more than 70 people were killed and more than 120 were injured in an attack on a bus station packed with morning commuters.

No one has claimed responsibility so far. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, however, accused the Islamist group Boko Haram, which has been carrying out attacks in the northeast of the country since 2009, of being behind the bloodshed.

"The issue of Boko Haram is a quite an ugly history," Jonathan said while visiting the site a few hours after the bomb blast. "But we will get over it. The issue of Boko Haram is temporary."

Others might dispute that. The devastating attack on the bus station on the outskirts of the capital Abuja shows that Nigeria is apparently powerless in the face of the growing violence. This year alone, attacks by Boko Haram have claimed more than 1,500 lives.

Yahaya Shinku, a security expert and former major in the Nigerian Army told DW that "the pattern of attacks has changed."

He was referring to an increase in the frequency of the attacks and Boko Haram's willingness to strike at targets outside its strongholds in the northeast of Nigeria.

The site of the attack that happened on Monday morning(14.04.2014) in Abuja

More than 70 people have been killed in attack on a bus station in Abuja

The most dramatic change, according to observers, is that violence has now become completely random.

"There is no more recognizable ideological line in the selection of terrorist targets," said Hildegard Berendt-Kigozi, country coordinator of the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) in Abuja.

For a long time, Boko Haram mainly attacked Nigerian state institutions such as the military, the police or schools. The goal of the group was to turn northern Nigerian into an Islamic state.

But over the last few months Boko Haram members have been indiscriminately attacking northern Nigerian villages. Muslims have been among their victims.

Speculation about possible motives

No motive has been identified in the Monday's attack on commuters in Abuja. "This is only to destabilize Nigeria" Berendt-Kigozi said of the killings.

"Every terrorist group with an ideological line would discredit itself with such attacks," she added. The motive of the perpetrators of these attacks was apparently neither political nor religious, but to plunge the entire country into chaos.

This is why no one has so far claimed responsibility for many of the recent indiscriminate attacks on the Nigerian soil. It could also mean that there will be no negotiations with the perpetrators.

Yahaya Shinku suspects that there is a connection between this latest terror attack and the upcoming presidential elections due in February 2015.

"You can not separate these attacks from the fact that we are nearing the 2015 elections," said Shinku. It will be very difficult to hold an election in violence-prone areas.

A police standing on a Tank

Attacks by Boko Haram has claimed more than 1,500 lives in 2014

"If the Electoral Commission and its institutions are also threatened, many of our staff will not be willing to put their lives at risk," Sinku added.

Analysts can only speculate why Boko Haram has decided to change its strategy or exactly who could be behind this latest indiscriminate violence.

Berendt-Kigozi said nobody knows the cause of terror in Nigerian or how to fight it.

Polarization of society

But the effects on society on society are clearly visible. The country is becoming more polarized along religious lines.

"For some, the situation is clear. These are all the Islamist extremists, they are all Boko Haram members," said Berendt-Kigozi.

But others don't believe that Islamists would kill their own brothers in faith.

Berendt-Kigozi said she hoped the attack on the bus station in Abuja would unite Nigerians in the fight against terror, but feared that "this will further polarized the society instead."

President Jonathan's military strategy in the fight against Boko Haram has so far met with little success. "A state of emergency was imposed to protect civilians but the situation is getting worse every day," the Nigerian Parliamentarian Ahmad Zannah complained.

Zannah's home of Borno is one of the three states where the state of emergency was imposed in May 2013, granting the military wide powers in the fight against terrorism.

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