Nigeria has suffered from another terrorist attack from Islamic extremists over the weekend, after militants ambushed a wedding convoy, leaving multiple people murdered, and the groom slaughtered. Death toll counts vary, sources saying it ranges anywhere from six people to as many as 30. The tragic event marks another bloody scene in the ongoing conflict between the Nigerian government and radical extremists determined on turning Nigeria into an Islamic theocracy.
The procession of vehicles were attacked on a highway between Gwoza and Gama in Borno state, according to army official Lt. Col. Muhammed Dole. The highway, which is bordered by a dense forest, is a hideout for the Boko Haram network of radical Islamists. Authorities say the wedding convoy was headed back home to Adamawa state when it was ambushed by militants.
A minibus taxi driver gave a gruesome account of the scene on the side of the road, saying bodies were riddled with gunshot wounds, and that there were “…a lot of dead bodies,” some with their throats slit. The driver declined to go on the record, identifying himself as Shaibu. Shaibu couldn’t confirm an exact body count.
The incident follows the horrific Kenyan Westgate mall shooting in September earlier this year, carried out by Al-Shabaab, one of the largest and most prominent extremist groups in the region. In that event 67 people were killed after a four day battle between the Kenyan military and Al-Shabaab militants. The Kenyan mall shooting was the bloodiest terrorist attack to hit Kenya since 1998.
Since September the Kenyan government has gone on the offensive, bombing al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab strongholds in Somalia. The Kenyan Defense Forces said that the air raid decimated a known training camp of Al-Shabaab. While official figures are unclear, officials say the camp held over 300 fighters, most of which are assumed to have been killed or seriously injured. Kenyan Defense Forces claim the camp was used to train a majority of the fighters who carried out the deadly Westgate mall attack. In a conflicting report Al-Shabaab said there was no such attack.
Reports of an ambushed military checkpoint in the vicinity of the highway attack last week claim that militants killed several security force members and walked away with weapons and military vehicles. The Nigerian government declined to speak on the issue, while the military says no such attack ever occurred.
Nigeria boasts the largest population in Africa, with more than 160 million people and dozens of tribal factions who all compete for power over the government and control of the vast oil resources. The instability in Nigeria has produced a vacuum, one which Al-Shabaab and groups tied to al-Qaeda within the Boko Haram network have seized upon.
The country itself is divided equally along religious lines, with the north predominantly Muslim, and the south primarily Christian.
The pressure to downplay the threat of extremism and the strength of these groups within Nigeria produces a he-said she-said environment of information gathering, making the task of identifying legitimate attacks difficult. The potential loss in revenue from foreign investment and oil companies is said to be behind such number fudging and incident denials.