A Scene of bomb-attack
A Scene of bomb-attack

Still on Gwoza Suicide Bombings
By Kabir Fagge Ali

For over a decade, Borno State in northeastern Nigeria has been the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency. Despite significant efforts by the military and other security forces, the region continues to suffer from devastating terror attacks, including suicide bombings. These attacks not only claim lives but also disrupt social and economic activities, perpetuating a cycle of fear and instability among the populace.

Boko Haram, founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western education and values. By 2009, it had morphed into a full-blown insurgency, with Borno State as its primary battleground. There was a period when suicide bombings became their calling card, used to instill fear, target security forces, and punish communities perceived as collaborating with the government. These attacks have grew more sophisticated and deadly over the years, often involving young girls and women as bombers.

In recent months, the resurgence of suicide bombings has reignited concerns over security in North East. On June 29th, female suicide bombers targeted a wedding, a subsequent funeral, and a hospital in Gwoza, Borno State resulting in at least 32 deaths and dozens of injuries. This series of coordinated attacks highlighted the persistent threat and the urgent need for enhanced intelligence gathering and a stronger commitment from Nigerian security agencies. The attacks caused significant casualties and widespread fear, disrupting a period of relative calm in the region. The Nigerian Army recently reported that the insurgents had prepared 15 suicide bombers for Gwoza, but only three succeeded.

Meanwhile, Nigerian legislators in the Senate have attributed the recent suicide bombings in Gwoza town to intelligence failures among security forces. They therefore urged the federal government to direct the military to rethink its conventional strategies in fighting insurgency and other crimes by deploying modern technology and scientific tactics.

The lawmakers noted that relying solely on conventional methods, such as troop deployment, was ineffective as terrorists continued to use non-conventional approaches to kill Nigerians and destroy livelihoods.

Despite unwavering efforts by security agencies to contain these forms of emerging security threats, significant gaps and challenges persist. Suicide bombings continue to occur with alarming frequency, indicating that Boko Haram and its splinter group, ISWAP, have adapted and evaded current security measures. Intelligence failures remain a major issue.

The clandestine nature of suicide bombings, often involving coerced or brainwashed individuals, makes them particularly challenging to detect and prevent.

In some areas, local populations remain sympathetic to Boko Haram due to grievances against the government, corruption, and inadequate service delivery. This support provides cover and resources for insurgent operations. The Nigerian military and security forces are often overstretched and under-resourced, with limited funding, equipment shortages, and inadequate training impeding the effectiveness of counter-insurgency operations.

The psychological toll of sustained violence on the population cannot be underestimated, as continuous exposure to bombings and insecurity exacerbates trauma and undermines community resilience.

Addressing the persistent threat of suicide bombings requires a multi-faceted and adaptive approach. Investing in advanced surveillance technology, such as drones and satellite imagery, can improve situational awareness. Strengthening local intelligence networks and encouraging community-based reporting can also provide critical insights into insurgent activities. Building trust between security forces and local communities is essential. This can be achieved through transparent governance, addressing human rights abuses by security forces, and ensuring that communities benefit from economic development and social services.

Expanding and improving deradicalization and reintegration programs for surrendered fighters and at-risk individuals can reduce the pool of potential suicide bombers. These programs should be culturally sensitive and involve local religious and community leaders.

Enhancing cooperation with neighboring countries and regional bodies like the African Union can improve border security and disrupt insurgent supply lines.

Long-term peace and security in Borno require addressing the root causes of the insurgency. This includes tackling poverty, unemployment, and lack of education through targeted development programs. The persistent threat of suicide bombings in Borno State underscores the need for a comprehensive review and revision of current security strategies. By addressing intelligence gaps, enhancing community engagement, and tackling the underlying socio-economic issues, Nigeria can create a more resilient and secure environment.

The journey to peace and stability in Borno is undoubtedly challenging, but with sustained and adaptive efforts, it is attainable.

*Kabir Fagge Ali, a youth corps member with PRNigeria Centre, wrote via [email protected]*

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