Since 2009, when Boko Haram started an insurgency in the northeast region, more than 35,000 people have been directly killed by the terrorist group. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) even said in a report in 2021 that the death toll is more than 350,000 people when indirect deaths are factored in.
Boko Haram’s activities have been mostly felt in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, with some past large scale attacks in Bauchi and Gombe. Taraba State used to be the one state in the northeast region largely untouched by the terror group’s activities. But that changed last week.
On April 19th 2022, a bomb exploded at a bar in the Iware community of Ardo Kola Local Government Area in Taraba. An eyewitness, Sunday Pantuvo, reported that the suspected bomber came to the bar with a polythene bag containing explosives.
The bomb reportedly exploded a few minutes after the suspected bomber left on the pretext that he was going to search for a friend. The explosion injured more than a dozen people, and killed six people, according to the police.
Boko Haram faction, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), claimed responsibility for the attack one day later. The group also claimed the explosion killed or injured 30 people, and described it as an attack on “a gathering of infidel Christians”.
Boko Haram’s former leader, Abubakar Shekau, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2015. He soon fell out of favour with ISIS one year later for targeting Muslim civilians in his attacks. This led to the breakout of a faction known as ISWAP.
Boko Haram and ISWAP carried out terror attacks with different operational philosophies for years, but also started battling for territories at some point.
The power struggle between both groups led to the death of Shekau in 2021 when they clashed in Borno State. ISWAP is estimated to have around 5,000 fighters.
Another bomb explosion rocked Taraba on April 22nd, 2022. A bar in the Nukkai area of Jalingo, the state capital, was hit. The bar was closed at the time, so no human casualties were recorded. But around a dozen people were reported to have been injured.
ISWAP has claimed responsibility for the second attack too.
What’s the government doing?
Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku, has reacted to the attacks.
Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku, has described the attacks as “ungodly, inhuman and barbaric”. He said the terrorists are only trying to destabilise the peace in the state.
To prevent more attacks, he asked security agencies to start stop-and-search operations across the state. This allows security operatives to frisk people and search their vehicles for possession of incriminating materials. The governor also directed officials to ensure that hawkers and traders who have established mini-markets at unapproved places in Jalingo are removed.
The governor also asked Taraba residents to avoid public places such as recreational centres and other crowded areas which are possible soft targets for the terrorists to attack.
How significant are these attacks?
President Buhari has for years repeated claims that his government has rendered Boko Haram useless in Nigeria. The explosions in Taraba prove that the group is spreading its wings instead, in contradiction to the president’s words.
The president hasn’t said anything about the latest attacks.