Nigeria on Monday braced for fresh Boko Haram attacks ahead of this month’s elections, with the key city of Maiduguri in the firing line and forces from Chad and Cameroon joining the regional fight. A weekend of violence saw the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, hit for the second Sunday in a row, but Nigerian Army soldiers, helped by civilian vigilantes, managed to keep the militants at bay. The border town of Gamboru, on Borno’s eastern fringe, meanwhile was pounded by artillery fire and from the air by Chadian jets, as troops massed in Cameroon for a possible ground offensive. The increase in both militant and military activity reflects growing fears over the Islamists’ threat to regional security and crucial elections scheduled for February 14.
Security analysts believe Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, will likely be hit again before polling day, given its symbolism for the group and because it would undermine the vote, which it sees as “un-Islamic”.
“The insurgents had long denounced elections as a pagan practice incompatible with the Islamic state and they had vowed they would never allow democracy to thrive in the region,” said Nnamdi Obasi, from the International Crisis Group.
“So, it was predictable they would step up attacks to pre-empt the coming elections, particularly in Maiduguri, and we may not have seen the end yet,” he told AFP.