Over the weekend, suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked several villages in northeastern Nigeria, killing dozens of civilians and torching churches and homes.
The attacks took place in villages near Chibok, a predominantly Christian enclave in Borno state from which Boko Haram kidnapped over two hundred school girls in April.
The villages attacked included Kautikari, Kwada, Ngurojina, and Karagau. According to a witness in Kautikari, the insurgents stayed in the village for at least four hours while setting homes and buildings on fire.
During the attacks, the gunmen reportedly rode through the villages on motorcycles throwing explosives at targets. In Kwada, the insurgents burned the entire village, including five churches. The gunmen entered the churches, opened fire on Sunday worshipers, and then set the churches ablaze.
A Nigerian military plane was reportedly deployed five hours after the attacks commenced; at which time, the “gunmen sneaked into the bush.”
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” has launched a series of attacks across the country seeking to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria. The group’s brazen spate of recent attacks illustrates that it can operate openly and with relative impunity. The group is suspected of attacking a shopping center in Abuja and hitting a medical college in Kano last week after it attacked several villages in Borno state the previous weekend.
This past Sunday’s attacks are not the first time the group has targeted Christians or churches. In 2012, a spokesman for the group promised that Boko Haram would “eradicate Christians from certain parts of the country” while fighting to establish “a proper Islamic state.” The statement came on the heels of a Boko Haram suicide car bombing outside a church in Jos in February 2012.
On June 26, the United Nations Security Council’s al Qaeda Sanctions Committee added Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau to its list of recognized terrorists, subjecting Shekau to financial sanctions and an arms embargo. The UN also added the Nigerian terrorist group Ansaru to its list of terrorist organizations, noting that it is associated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram, as well as with Shekau himself.
The US added Shekau to its terrorist list in June 2012, and designated Ansaru as a terror organization in November 2013.