Northeast Nigeria is no stranger to explosive violence. Boko Haram and Islamic State – West Africa Province (ISWAP) have been active in the area for over a decade in their fight against the Nigerian military. However, this past week has seen two suicide attacks claimed by ISWAP in Nigeria’s typically more peaceful Middle Belt state of Taraba. Both attacks, one in the rural community of Iware, and the other in Jalingo, the state’s capital, seem to have been targeting drinking establishments.
On Tuesday April 20th, an IED explosion at a drinking spot in Iware’s crowded marketplace killed six people and injured 19. The attack was claimed on Wednesday 21st April by Islamic State (IS), who reported that 30 people had been killed or injured. In their statement, IS described those who detonated the bomb as ‘soldiers of the caliphate in central Nigeria,’ targeting ‘a gathering of infidel Christians.’
On Friday April 22nd, another explosion in Jalingo’s Nukkai district injured 11 people, including children. The blast took place near a bar, causing significant structural damage as well. The next day, ISWAP claimed responsibility for the attack. Sources note the satisfaction with which the spokesperson described the physical damage to the bar.
AOAV’s last recorded incident in Taraba dates back to 2012, when unknown actors deployed non-specific IEDs in April and October, killing a total of 11 civilians and injuring 48. Between 2012 and 2021, 0 civilian casualties of explosive weapons reported in English language sources are recorded in Taraba, but Taraba is already the region with the highest count of civilian casualties in Nigeria in 2022 so far. Overall, however, civilian casualties of explosive violence in Nigeria have been decreasing since 2017.
These latest incidents are a symptom of the spreading Islamist insurgencies that have been active in Nigeria’s northeast for over a decade, as IS-affiliated groups expand their operational areas. It’s a trend that warrants close monitoring within the overall patterns of Islamist insurgencies in Africa and northern Africa, as well as in the study of shifting dynamics amongst Islamist and other religious armed groups.
In total, 4, 215 civilians have been killed and 6, 260 injured by explosive weapons use in Nigeria since 2010, as reported in English language sources. Non-state actors are responsible for at least 51% (5, 381) of civilian casualties, while 44% (4, 643) of civilian casualties are attributed to unknown actors.
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