Gunmen Kill 36 in Attacks in Northern Nigeria

Gunmen killed 36 people in two attacks in northern Nigeria on Wednesday, a day after fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades amid worsening security in Africa’s most populous nation, officials and residents said as quoted by Al Jazeera. The series of attacks by armed bandits occurred over the past 48 hours with 18 people killed each in villages of Kaduna and Katsina states and several others injured.

In a statement quoted by the Daily Post website, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan said the attacks in that state followed an air operation by security forces in which “several armed bandits” were killed.

Hundreds of people have been killed in northern Nigeria by criminal gangs carrying out robberies and kidnappings. The attacks have added to security challenges in Nigeria, which is struggling to contain insurgencies in the northeast and communal violence over grazing rights in central states.

The latest attack comes less than a month after President Muhammadu Buhari replaced his longstanding military chiefs amid the worsening violence, with the armed forces fighting to reclaim other northeastern towns overrun by fighters. Last week, unidentified gunmen killed a student in an attack on a boarding school in Nigeria’s north-central Niger state and kidnapped 42 people, including 27 students.

Over 1,500 people have died in Nigeria in the first six weeks of 2021 due to general insecurity including terrorist attacks from the Nigerian Islamist terror group Boko Haram and kidnappings, local media reported on Monday.

“In the first six weeks of 2021, lives of no fewer than 1,525 persons have been wasted across the country,” the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard reported on February 22, citing a recent investigation by the newspaper and data obtained from the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa program.

Vanguard described the 1,525 death tally as a “conservative” estimate because it “covers only reported cases arising from the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, herdsmen crisis, kidnapping, communal and cult clashes, armed robbery, and brutality of security agents among others.”

The 1,525 deaths recorded in the first six weeks of 2021 amount to roughly half of the 3,188 Nigerian lives lost between January and December 2019 “as a result of violent incidents which include: gang [violence] … extra-judicial killings, resource crises, kidnappings and, Boko-Haram/ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province] attacks,” according to report by Global Rights.

Nigeria currently ranks as the third-most impacted country by terrorism in the world after Afghanistan and Libya, according to the 2020 Global Terrorism Index.

“Nigeria had the second largest fall in total deaths [in 2020], owing largely to a 72 percent reduction in fatalities attributed to Fulani extremists,” the authors of the 2020 Global Terrorism Index report wrote.

“Despite this decrease, the number of deaths attributed to Boko Haram increased by 25 percent from 2018 to 2019. Renewed activity by Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries, including Cameroon, Chad and Niger, remains a substantial threat to the region,” the authors added.

Cattle herders in Northwestern Nigeria are largely members of the Fulani ethnic group, while farmers in the same region are mostly from the Hausa tribe. The divide has caused inter-communal feuding over grazing rights, water access, and cattle theft over the past several years that has killed thousands of people. Some cattle herders, known as “Fulani extremists,” are known for carrying out armed robberies and small-scale kidnappings for ransom in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s deadliest states in the first six weeks of 2021 were: Kaduna, with 409 deaths; Zamfara, with 267 deaths; and Borno State, with 257 deaths.

“Kaduna and Zamfara are the hotbeds of banditry ravaging the North-West zone of the country,” according to Vanguard, while Borno State is Boko Haram’s historic stronghold and the site of most of its terror attacks.

Nigeria’s former military director and Chairman of the National Peace Committee, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, warned last week that Nigeria is at risk of becoming a failed state unless the government addresses the worsening security crisis.

“In the last two weeks or so, tension has been growing in the country and the embers of disunity, anarchy and disintegration are spreading fast and if care is not taken, this might lead us to a point of no return,” he said on February 17.