Boko Haram Attacks: a Literature Review

SubhanAllah! What! I think another bomb just got detonated in my area. It shook the living daylight out of my house which is close to police headquarters, Bompai. From my room I can hear fierceful gun battle.” Friday 20th January, 5.13pm local time

Another bomb just went off, shaking the very foundation of our house. Now I see walls cracking and ceiling loosing grip. Gun fight is getting intense.” Friday 20th January 5.40pm local time

Rains of bullets and tornado of explosions…! We’re in a war zone! I’ve never experienced anything close.” Friday 20th January, 6.09pm local time

These were some of the frantic messages posted on Facebook Aisha Mohammed (not real name) on Friday evening in the city of Kano Nigeria as the Islamist insurgency group Boko Haram unleashed a series of bomb attacks in one evening and engaged in fierce gun battle with security forces. The deadly onslaught on Kano city claimed over 200 lives with estimates by medical personnel placing the figure at a much higher lever. While this is just one of numerous other onslaughts by Boko Haram in recent times, it is so far its most vicious, deadliest and most sophisticated yet. The numerous attacks it has unleashed in the last few months, each one more deadly and daring than the previous have made it quite difficult to keep track. It would seem examining the latest spate of attacks, the surrounding circumstances  and making comparisons with previous ones to find out the missing pieces of the puzzle would be in order, just like a literature review of sorts to find out what key points we are missing.


On this occasion, one discernible difference is the size, scale and magnitude of the attacks. Over 20 bombs were reported to have gone off in different locations in Kano city, which several police stations, the Immigration headquarters, the Department of the State Security Service (SSS) and other government buildings. As if the deadly bomb blasts were not enough, the attackers are reported to have engaged in fierce gun battle with police officers especially at the SSS headquarters and at  the Police headquarters Bompai. The blasts were reported by witnesses and many living in the vicinity of the targeted building to have been heard within a radius of up to two kilometres. Such buildings in the vicinity of the attacks, were said to have shattered, ceilings of houses caved in, walls cracked. The level of sophistication, precision and co-ordination is incredible as well as hair-raising. Attacking Kano, the commercial and cultural heart of the North surely struck a nerve. If the aim was to strike fear, terror and indelible emotional and psychological scarring, then mission fait accompli.


It is also clear that substantial resources were invested in carrying out these attacks. Not only was this in terms of the level of sophistication, planning and coordination in the onslaught on major security installations in the city, but also in terms of the calibre of army-grade weapons and explosives used. Eye witnesses reported the use of rocket-propelled launchers by the attackers. The way Boko Haram was able to stake out its targets – security installations to be precise – plan and strategically place explosives begs the question as to how come there was no prior intelligence or inkling that alerted anyone of such plans, least of all the security agencies.

The explosives used were obviously not the locally-made, home-made Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) used by the group in its previous campaigns. These bombs whose impacts were heard and felt within a reported 2km radius are neither cheap nor easy to come by. When all these are considered, it raises the question of whether Boko Haram as we know it (what little is known of it anyways) an isolated group that abhors western education and all trappings of modernity can on its own afford such expensive gadgets and logistics. What comes to mind is that there are big financiers and sponsors behind this group – certainly people with enormous resources, clout, influence and a bloody vendetta. President Goodluck Jonathan himself said this much when he confirmed what many have long suspected: that the group’s sympathisers have infiltrated his government. If so the key question remains, who are they and what do they intend to achieve with this bloody campaign?



In light of all this information, it is clear that the Boko Haram sect and its activities have clearly gone beyond being a mere security challenge by a group which aims to “impose the adherence to strict shariah law”. This is clearly a deeply political problem which requires appropriate political solutions. This perhaps explains why the security measures adopted so far to contain the insurgency have proven futile: attempts at negotiation have been blatantly rejected by the group’s members; the deployment of a Joint Military Task Force to Borno state, the group’s stronghold, has simply resulted in arbitrary killings and other human rights violations of the civilian population and the recent state of emergency declared in states regarded as Boko Haram strong hold have similarly failed as it neither stopped random attacks in Maiduguri and Bauchi nor did it prevent the Kano blasts from occurring. All the group’s top members who have been arrested have either been murdered or have escaped in mysterious circumstances.

Consequently, the recent appeal by the National Security Adviser (NSA) General Andrew Azazi, encapsulated in his article in the Washington Times for US assistance in tackling Boko Haram has been viewed with scepticism. This is because there is only so much the most efficient police organizations and intelligence agencies in the world can do in a terrain where little information and little intelligence has been gathered. M15 or CIA can do little in an environment they are not familiar with or where they will stick out like sore thumbs.

After conducting this literature review of sorts, the underlying fact here is that there are deep underlying political issues that need to be resolved. The top echelon of the government clearly has sufficient information to work with, apprehend these sponsors/sympathisers and deal with them accordingly. Whether this means negotiating and sorting out the deep political problems which are clearly bedevilling Nigeria, or apprehending and prosecuting them, ordinary Nigerians simply want an end to the carnage, mayhem and bloodshed lest the looming anarchy descends and prevails.


5 thoughts on “Boko Haram Attacks: a Literature Review

  1. Well done Zee. It’s thought provoking. And the inset letter that ended the piece is well in place cuz after working my brain it relieved it with lols

  2. For my on that boko haram is not a good muslum…couse if they are why are them killing muslum and there is people were are doing boko at southn nigeria but the came to the place of muslum and busness people they are killing them with out any reason….the think they are doing gud but the are not…and if they are fight with government so the people are killing civilian is the police for there own or they didnt get what the want i mean the didnt cach any 1 among that boko haram people that why they are killng civilian….god damn it… all is our leaders respons the knaw all what is going….mtsw wannan zaluncine

  3. Thank you for this paper on Boko Haram. I like the mélange: literature, personal sentiments, and politics.
    As you said at the end, you are not under the illusion of YOu alone changing the world. But this information you share with us all is vital for things to change one day. Every small drop of water in the bucket counts to eventually fill the bucket up. Thanks again.

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