Earlier this week, the radical Islamist group Boko Haram has pulled off one of the most deadly attacks in its ongoing five-year conflict with the Nigerian government.

At a time that has already placed a great deal of emotional and political strain following the Paris terrorist attacks, the extremist group carried out a series of attacks, with as many as 2,000 feared dead, according to Amnesty International.

Focusing their activities on the town of Baga, which once had a population of over 10,000 people, the group carried out a series of multi-day rampages. An estimated 16 towns and villages surrounding Baga were razed, with an estimated 2,000 Nigerian civilians perishing and a further 10,000 fleeing to neighbouring Chad to escape the violence.

The group’s assault was split into two phases of execution: the first offensive beginning on the 3rd of January against the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a coalition of troops from Nigeria, Chad and the Niger and the second offensive followed up on the 6th of January to the present in Baga’s surrounding towns and villages.

The coordination and execution of the attacks have dealt a blow to the Nigerian military’s efforts to end the insurgency. The recent events also raise the question as to the effectiveness of countering the offensive against Boko Haram, which is coming off its worst year yet.

Prior to the assault on Baga the town was set to host the MNJTF coalition force, but was only occupied by Nigerian troops when the assault began. Government forces then abandoned the town on the 4th of January, after a day of fighting.

The timing of the attacks is perhaps no coincidence, as they come five weeks before national elections are held on the 15th of February. The elections are likely to trigger more violence, but could also become a platform for prominent government officials to promote how they intend to end the counterinsurgency with the extremist group, which has already been held accountable for killing more than 10,000 people in 2014 alone.

At a time of political uncertainty, there is a growing concern that a humanitarian crisis is already underway. An estimated 1.5 million civilians have been displaced throughout the course of the five-year conflict. Children caught up in the conflict have become one of its frequent victims. Emergency workers have reiterated the difficulty of coping with scores of children who have been abandoned or separated by their parents as a result of Boko Haram’s frequent attacks.

With a deadly turn in the conflict already underway, it is highly likely that further attacks on government forces and the civilian population will follow in the lead-up to the national elections.

Given the events that have unfolded, the Nigerian government and the MNJTF may likely reevaluate their approach to the extremist group’s tactics in the conflict. Yet the incoming of elections is likely to hamper efforts as Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan and other prominent officials focus on reelection bids.

 

Sources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13809501

http://uk.businessinsider.com/boko-harams-deadliest-terrorist-attack-2015-1?r=US

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/09/boko-haram-deadliest-massacre-baga-nigeria

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/7-kids-reunite-with-parents-lost-in-nigeria-islamic-uprising/2015/01/09/56d9b918-97e4-11e4-8385-866293322c2f_story.html

http://www.msnbc.com/now/watch/thousands-missing-after-boko-haram-razes-town-381733443864

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-30728158