Nigerians are 'desperate' for intervention as Boko Haram steps up its attacks

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Aaron Schachter: With the world focused on France for the past several days, some pretty shocking news from Nigeria has gotten relatively little attention. First, the militant group Boko Haram launched an attack in north eastern Nigeria that reportedly left hundreds of people dead. Then the group allegedly used a ten-year-old girl to bomb a market in a separate attack. We reached our college, Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar at the BBC’s Abuja bureau. Can you bring us up to date on what occurred last week in this area where Nigeria borders Chad?


Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar: Well, it all started when Boko Haram attacked the town of Baga on the shores of Lake Chad. It, first of all, attacked the multinational military base where Nigerian troops were stationed. After overpowering them and forcing them to flee, the insurgents made their way into Baga, attacked it, took it over, and went over to attack and take over surrounding villages, leaving many people dead.


Schachter: Hundreds, thousands--what are we talking about?


Abubakar: Some residents say the dead may be as many as 2,000. The insurgents also attacked Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, but the Nigerian military successfully repelled that attack. On the following day, saturday, January 10th, there was a female suicide bomb attack on a popular Maiduguri Market involving a ten-year-old girl, and that left about nineteen people dead. On the following day, sunday, that was yesterday, there were twin suicide bomb attacks carried out by two females at a mobile phone market--six people dead, including the suicide bombers.


Schachter: Just incredible carnage. What is the point? What, if any reason, are they giving for doing this?


Abubakar: Boko Haram is known to be behind most of the attacks. The group says it wants to establish the strict sharia law in the northern part of Nigeria and already it has captured and controls a vast piece of land overlapping the borders of the states of Borno and Adamawa, where it has already said it has established an Islamic state in this area.


Schachter: And they’re going about this essentially by randomly killing people? I guess the idea then is they just make locals so scared that they submit?


Abubakar: That looks like it but many people can’t make sense out of all of these killings that are going on, especially the killings of civilians. People wonder why you’d go about killing harmless civilians who are not carrying arms against you. Though we do have some members of the civilian population who have formed themselves into vigilantes and have been helping the military fight the insurgents. So, perhaps that’s why the group is targeting the civilian population.


Schachter: There’s been a lot of criticism there, of course, of the Nigerian military and of the world community as a whole. I want to play this clip from the Catholic archbishop of Jos in central Nigeria there, Ignatius Kaigama. He was kind of chastising the international community for focusing so much on Paris and seemingly letting events in Nigeria slip by. What are people there saying about how the world is looking at Nigeria and how the military and the government there is taking on Boko Haram?


Abubakar: Well, just as Ignatius Kaigama said there, that is the reflection of how people feel in Nigeria at the moment. For example, having a country like the United States of America bringing its troops and equipment and taking on Boko Haram directly. What they want is direct intervention. They want to see world powers bring in their troops into Nigeria and take on the Boko Haram insurgents because certainly the insurgents, like Ignatius Kaigama rightly said, seems to have overwhelmed the Nigerian military. So, Nigerians now seem so desperate that anything that would be done to bring an end to this insurgency they would support.


Schachter: Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar at the BBC’s Abuja bureau. Great to speak with you.


Abubakar: Thank you very much.