Nigeria’s Northeast Suffers String of Attacks by Boko Haram

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Islamist terror group Boko Haram conducted a three-day spree of assaults that killed at least 42 people in northeast Nigeria, marking a grim beginning to the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The attacks began on Friday, when a bomb killed 10 people at a wedding in the town of Hawul, two residents said. The blast took place around the time Mr. Buhari was reciting his oath of office in the capital, Abuja, about 400 miles away.

“Some of us managed to escape,” said Haruna Musa, who was at the wedding.

Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram killed at least 42 people in bombings and rocket attacks like the one that damaged this home, in a wave of assaults starting Friday.
Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram killed at least 42 people in bombings and rocket attacks like the one that damaged this home, in a wave of assaults starting Friday. PHOTO: JOSSY OLA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The next day, a suicide bomber struck a market in Maiduguri, the largest city in northeast Nigeria, killing 16 people, a member of an anti-Boko Haram militia said. Maiduguri has been the focus of Boko Haram’s terror campaign over the past six years, and Mr. Buhari on Friday said Nigeria’s top generals will be relocated there to be closer to soldiers fighting the extremist group.

Boko Haram capped its rampage on Sunday with a string of rocket and bomb attacks in Maiduguri. Early in the day, a small group of insurgents began shooting mortars, taking at least 11 lives, a government official said.

“We were just sleeping,” said Bulama Mohammad Abubakar, who ran from his home with his wife and two children when a rocket landed next door.

About noon, a bomb struck a crowded market, killing at least five people. Four others were rushed to a hospital with serious injuries.

The attacks represent a big test for Mr. Buhari. In March, he was voted into power by an electorate distressed by years of attacks under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.During Mr. Jonathan’s four-year elected term, more than 23,000 people were killed in Boko Haram’s war against the government. The group also kidnapped thousands of women, men and children, forcing the men into combat and making females their slave wives.

When Mr. Buhari won the election, soldiers and residents danced together in the streets of Maiduguri, ecstatic that a change in strategy might end the conflict. Many Nigerians say they will judge Mr. Buhari’s success largely on his administration’s effectiveness in following through.

Slowly, Mr. Buhari, a 72-year-old retired general, is offering glimpses of how he intends to defeat the insurgents.

In his inauguration speech, Mr. Buhari said he would “overhaul the rules of engagement” to reduce the human-rights abuses committed by Nigerian soldiers. He also said he would commission a study to determine how Boko Haram was able to advance in the northeast.

“His new administration won’t tolerate wanton and willful destruction of life,” saidShehu Garba, the president’s interim spokesman. “He has sworn to protect the security of Nigerians everywhere.”

There is also the challenge of what to do with the young men who fight for Boko Haram—some by choice, others recruited at gunpoint. On Friday, a leading figure in Mr. Buhari’s party threw support behind a controversial proposal: granting legal amnesty to any Boko Haram member who wants to quit.

“Members of the Boko Haram sect that want to come out of the bush must be given the opportunity,” said Kashim Shettima, the governor of Nigeria’s Borno state, where the insurgency is based, and a politician from the president’s All Progressives Congress party.

On Sunday, Nigerian soldiers dragged one such member—captured with a rocket launcher—into their barracks in Maiduguri. The young man appeared terrified, as soldiers shouted questions at him, in a scene witnessed by a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Mumbling in Arabic, the young man said he hadn’t joined the group willingly. As with thousands of other Nigerians, he had been kidnapped, he said, and given a choice: fight or be killed.

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