Between anticipation and fear

In Nigeria, preparations for the Sallah celebration are in full swing these days. But the anticipation is clouded. Blame it on Boko Haram. The Islamist terrorist group could strike again at the festival marking the end of the fasting month, of all places.

"No, I don't need water. I am not thirsty at all. I'll hold out until tonight," says Ibrahim Sani with conviction. The cab driver lives in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna and has been.30 o'clock nothing eaten. There are just under three hours left until sunset and thus until the breaking of the fast in the mosque. But the Muslim wants to persevere. "Fasting during Ramadan is extremely important for me. It brings me closer to God," he explains, but then admits: "This year it is relatively easy. It is the rainy season and the temperatures are almost cool."

Until the weekend, Ibrahim Sani will not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. But sexual intercourse is also taboo during Ramadan. Instead, Muslims should work on their virtues, be helpful and take special care of others. However, this Friday, or Saturday at the latest, the new moon is expected to officially end the fasting month. "The beauty of it is the great Sallah celebration. We want to celebrate for several days," says Ibrahim Sani.

Fear of riots and attacks
Asibi Musa is also looking forward to it. She herself is a Christian, but has been married to a Muslim for almost 20 years. "My husband will buy meat. Maybe a goat," she says. For the 41-year-old tailor from Kaduna, it is a matter of honor that she prepares the feast for her husband and the whole family. Cooking, baking, getting drinks – it's all part of it. "It's a big celebration for us, like Christmas. Of course, my relatives will also come then."

But Nigerian security authorities are not as optimistic as Asibi Musa. Instead, fears are growing of possible riots and attacks by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. In the town of Jos in Plateau State in central Nigeria, police chief Emmanuel Ayeni earlier this week urged people not to celebrate on certain streets. So-called hotspots have seen repeated deadly riots over the past year – including during Sallah celebrations.

Optimism nonetheless
According to a report in the Daily Trust newspaper on Wednesday, the situation in Yobe state in northeastern Nigeria is apparently similarly tense. Many thousands of people are reported to have already left the capital Damaturu, where Boko Haram members have carried out frequent attacks in recent months. Rumor has it that the terrorist group Damaturu in particular has threatened new attacks. Whether it will actually come to that cannot be estimated. "But when Boko Haram announces something like this, the group usually gets serious," says a person familiar with the scene.

That's why Mohammed Musa will also be cautious. Together with his wife Asibi, he is looking forward to the Sallah festival. But he knows how quickly the mood can change – especially in his home country of Kaduna, where there were days of rioting between Christian and Muslim youths after a Boko Haram attack in June. "During that time, of course, I stayed with my wife. We did not move. We had to be incredibly careful." Nevertheless, he wants to spread optimism. "I can't imagine that there will be attacks here again on Sallah of all places."

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