Boko Haram insurgents bombed a police station in northeast Nigeria, as the Islamists pressed on with attacks despite a multinational offensive targeting their strongholds, witnesses and security sources said Thursday.
Separately, an attempted suicide attack was foiled outside a political office elsewhere in the embattled northeast, raising fears of growing unrest in the run-up to Nigeria’s general election, which has been postponed by six weeks.
The Boko Haram uprising has raged for six years, killing more than 13,000 people, and the sect has in recent months increasingly posed a regional threat.
Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger have since the start of this month launched an unprecedented joint effort to crush the uprising, raising hopes that this new cooperation could turn the tide.
In a nationally broadcast interview on Wednesday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed that “serious advances will be made” over the next six weeks, meaning security will have improved by the new election day, March 28.
“But I’m not saying (we will) wipe out Boko Haram,” he added.
The insurgents have proved resilient throughout the conflict and despite initial claims of success, few believe the regional military teamwork can contain the conflict in the short term.
– Police attacked –
Scores of militants armed with guns and explosives stormed a police station in the town of Kanamma in Yobe state late Monday, multiple sources told AFP.
Details of the violence took days to emerge because of the poor phone network in the remote area.
“The terrorists overpowered our men and set the police station on fire before kidnapping the DPO (district police officer), whose body was later found in the bush,” said one senior officer, who requested anonymity.
Several other policemen were killed, he added.
That account was supported by Kanamma resident Maina Kachalla, who said the police station was bombed and burnt down.
Kanamma holds significance in the history of the Boko Haram conflict.
The group was formed in Maiduguri, the capital of neighbouring Borno state in 2002 but a hardline faction relocated to Kanamma in 2004 and attempted to form an extremist enclave in the town which they called “Afghanistan”, taking inspiration from the Taliban.
They clashed with the military in Kanamma in January 2004 in the first known case of unrest involving the group that later become known as Boko Haram, which roughly means “Western education is forbidden”.
The latest violence there was several hundred kilometres (miles) from the eastern edge of Borno state, the current epicentre of the multi-national offensive, which indicated that regional armies have substantial ground to cover if they hope to crush the insurgency.
– Attempted suicide blast –
In Yobe’s economic capital Potiskum, multiple witnesses said an attempted suicide bombing was thwarted outside the campaign office of Governor Ibrahim Geidam.
The suspect reportedly raised suspicion by loitering outside the office and was confronted by a crowd, causing him to run into an abandoned building where he blew himself up, according to witness Abubakar Ubale, in an account borne out by two others.
A similar incident outside a political office killed seven people on February 1 in Potiskum, while the next day a suicide bombing hit a presidential campaign rally in Gombe just after Jonathan left the site.