After police stations, military installations, churches and the UN headquarters, there have been attacks on the editorial offices of the daily newspaper "This Day" in Nigeria. Boko Haram claimed responsibility. The incident shows how unpredictable the Islamist terrorist group has become.
The bombs claimed three lives. "Only a few meters away from death" – this is how journalists describe what they experienced on their homepage. In Nigeria, not a day has gone by in months without terrorists making some kind of headlines. Sometimes it was bombings in Kano or Maiduguri, sometimes planned negotiations between the group and the Nigerian government. The latter fizzled out without much surprise. The attacks drew condemnation from the Nigerian media, which also reminded the government that it had a responsibility to stop ignoring Boko Haram.
Now Boko Haram's anger is directed at the media. To Premium Times – a hitherto rather unknown online newspaper – Boko Haram spokesman Abul Qaqa is said to have explained in an interview why media houses have also been targeted: "We have told journalists that they should be objective. This is a war between us and the government."
Boko Haram does not forget
That the group chose "This Day," of all places, as its attack target could have another reason: Qaqa is quoted as saying that the newspaper once "insulted the Prophet Muhammad". Boko Haram has not forgotten her. The statement is nebulous; it probably alludes to the bloody riots in 2002. At the time, the "Miss World" pageant was to be held in Nigeria – of all times, many Muslims felt, during the fasting month of Ramadan, when sex is taboo.
"This Day" published the contribution of a young journalist at the time; she wrote that perhaps even Mohammed would have chosen one of the candidates to be his wife. The publication was followed by days of rioting. The city of Kaduna was particularly affected. More than 100 people reportedly killed. The journalist was sentenced to death by stoning under Sharia law, which was introduced in northern states around 2000. She was able to flee Nigeria.
If the reference is indeed to this, it shows that Boko Haram does not forget. Many years later, the group is still ready to take revenge. And this could perhaps also affect other media houses. Abul Qaqa does not want to rule it out. However, it is hard to corroborate whether alleged Boko Haram spokesmen actually belong to that organization.
More and more guerrilla groups
This problem faces journalists as well as police officers. Also the Joint Task Force (JTF), that special unit that is supposed to help in the fight against terrorists. They repeatedly receive calls with suppressed telephone numbers from people claiming to be representatives of Boko Haram. It is never clear if this is true. Experts expect a high number of free riders.
These rob banks as alleged Boko Haram members, for example – although they have nothing to do with the group. Sometimes, however, it is the real Boko Haram that procures funds in this way. Abdul Hussaini, head of the aid organization "ActionAid" in Nigeria, sees this as a sign that Boko Haram is developing more and more into a guerrilla group; that the spiral of violence is turning more and more. Boko Haram, says Hussaini, "is a group that is extremely attention seeking". And it will probably indeed continue to receive.