A twin car bombing killed more than 100 people in the northern Nigerian city of Jos on Tuesday. On Wednesday, three villages were attacked and at least 50 massacred. The Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, is being blamed for the violence.
But what’s their goal?
Jos is the capital of Plateau state, and Plateau state has had its own sectarian conflict for many years; a conflict that began long before Boko Haram was founded.
Boko Haram “has been trying nationwide to situate itself as the protector of Muslims,” says Darren Kew. Kew is a Nigeria expert, and a professor of conflict resolution at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He’s a frequent traveler to Nigeria.
“And Jos,” says Kew, “is very much a banner conflict” in that struggle. Most people in Plateau state are Christian, but it also has a large Muslim minority. Most of these Muslims speak Hausa and Kew says they have been struggling to gain political and economic rights for years. “So Boko Haram has been trying to insert itself in this conflict.”
“It’s been unsuccessful so far,” says Kew.
Boko Haram is disliked across Nigeria, particularly after its latest atrocities and the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls. “Roughly two-thirds of those killed by Boko Haram are Muslims,” Kew points out.
But Kew says some fringe elements in Jos might make common cause with Boko Haram, “but I wouldn’t say the majority of the community ,or even the local Hausa fighters, are in lockstep with Boko Haram.”
Nonetheless, Kew says, the tension in northern Nigeria is palpable and growing, given the uptick in violence since January.