The jihadist group Boko Haram has been targeting Arabic speakers in northern Nigeria in revenge attacks meant to dissuade the government of Chad from aiding Nigeria in eradicating the terrorist threat.
According to a Reuters report Thursday, attacks described as “ethnic reprisals” are becoming increasingly common on the Chad/Nigeria border, targeting Shuwa Arabs, who are an Chadian ethnic group known to speak Arabic. With their ties to Chad, a nation that has been on the forefront of the west African coalition attempting to eliminate Boko Haram, the group has taken to mass attacks on Shuwa populations in Nigeria.
“Boko Haram has branched into a sort of massacre strategy against the Arab population that are suspected to be collaborators with the Chadian forces,” according to Cameroon Special Forces Major Belthus Kwene. Cameroon reports that an estimated 10,000 refugees have flooded its borders in the past few weeks since the west African coalition ramped up attacks on the terrorist organization.
The focus on Shuwa Arabs does not mean that Boko Haram has abandoned its traditional strategy of killing as many people of any background as possible using targeted bombing attacks. On Tuesday, a female teenage suicide bomber believed to have been sent by Boko Haram attacked a market in Maiduguri, the capital of northeastern Borno, Nigeria. The Associated Press estimated 34 dead from the attack and numerous injuries. The attack fits the pattern of bombings by young female suicide bombers in Borno, most believed to be girls abducted in village raids for the purposes of being wed to Boko Haram fighters or used as suicide bombers.
Meanwhile, the militaries of Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin continue announcing advances against Boko Haram troops. The Associated Press reports this week that the government of Niger claimed it killed at least 500 Boko Haram jihadists on Wednesday, adding the total up since the initiation of the current assault on February 8. Today, the Nigerian army separately announced that Boko Haram resting points inside Bauchi’s Lame forest had been dismantled, sending jihadists fleeing in all directions to possibly reconnect with others being flushed out of northeastern strongholds.
In an interview with Voice of America, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan claimed the Nigerian government would successfully eradicate Boko Haram from the entire nation in three weeks, though he did not provide specifics on what evidence led him to that conclusion.