A gruesome attack on villages near Lake Chad this week left 26 dead, as Boko Haram burned homes to the ground and slit the throats of anyone who stood in their way. The attack is the latest in a string of escalating violence in Nigeria and Chad exacerbated by Islamic State calls for more death during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Officials in Chad report that the villages of Merom and Tiskra, on Lake Chad and near the Nigerian border, fell victim to Boko Haram attacks over the weekend, leaving 26 people dead, half in each town and all killed by having their throats slit. “The two villages were attacked by surprise on Saturday and Sunday night. There were 13 dead in each attack,” an official told Al Jazeera.
Boko Haram, an Islamic State affiliate, has taken to targeting the Lake Chad area in light of initiatives by the Chadian government to crack down on Islamist violence, including ordering all stores in the country to burn any burqas for sale and banning the garment permanently. In one of the deadlier recent attacks by the terrorist group, Boko Haram left at least 148 people dead at evening Ramadan prayer services in another Lake Chad village last week.
Boko Haram jihadists continue to pressure Nigeria, however, with terrorists attacks, despite the simultaneous focus on Chad. On Tuesday, two suicide bombers attacked a market in northeastern Borno state, killing five people. “The insurgents are continuing to attack soft targets of markets, motor parks, and hospitals in the Sambisa Forests and its environs,” one police official told Nigerian newspaper Vanguard.
Boko Haram’s repeated targeting of markets has led to merchants leading rallies calling for the Nigerian government to act swiftly to eradicate the terrorist group. Elsewhere in Nigeria, merchants at a market in southern Anambra state, which boasts little to no Boko Haram activity, have shut down marketplaces in protest of the arrival of Boko Haram prisoners to nearby facilities. Markets in the state shut down for the second time on Thursday as merchants, fearful that the Borno state suicide bombings will reach them, took to the streets to call for the prisoners to be moved elsewhere.
The Nigerian military has been working to streamline the legal processing of Boko Haram suspects, releasing 182 men, women, and children suspected of having ties to Boko Haram on Monday, all of which have been allegedly “cleared” of wrongdoing.
In light of the recent onslaught of attacks, the Nigerian government has appeared slightly more open to negotiations with the terrorist group to reduce terrorist violence. In a BBC interview this week, a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari stated that the government “can’t rule out” talks with Boko Haram leaders, a conversation followed by a report today in Vanguard suggesting that the government may have already begun attempting to contact the group. “The aim of the renewed effort is to resuscitate the discussions from where we ended abruptly under the Jonathan administration and take it forward from there since there is a new government in place in Nigeria,” a source identified as having been engaged in talks with the group under President Goodluck Jonathan, told the newspaper. “But the truth is that the government does not want to be seen to be talking with the group apparently because of the failure of all previous efforts to dialogue with the Boko Haram men in and outside Nigeria under the previous administration,” he added.
The report comes a day after Boko Haram released a statement to the government suggesting that they would be willing to negotiate the liberation of hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok, Borno in April 2014. The girls, whose abduction triggered the international #BringBackOurGirls campaign, mostly continue in captivity, with the few freed having escaped themselves, not being rescued.