Is the Maiduguri IDP camp bombing a shift in strategy for Boko Haram?

On Sunday morning, a female suicide bomber killed eight people and injured seven others at a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. The 20 year old lady was said to have maneuvered herself into a group of displaced women and children after being brought into the camp from Dikwa, a town in the Northeastern part of Borno. According to eye witnesses she then detonated the bomb when they were stopped at the checkpoint into the camp. This attack brings the number of attacks on IDP camps this year to four.

While there have been four attacks at IDP camps this year, officials have also had to disarm bombs, as well as search for Boko Haram militants, which have infiltrated their way inside.

This latest attack is suggests a change of tactics for Boko Haram. As most of their attacks have been concentrated on mosques, churches, markets and bus stations. IDP camp attacks have been infrequent and few. Here’s why IDP camps are an easy target for the terrorist sect.

Poor security

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), about  2.23 million people from Northern Nigeria have been displaced by Boko Haram, forced to relocate to cams, which are mainly repurposed school facilities and empty government buildings. These camps are scattered throughout the affected Northern states of the country. Security officials are spread thin across Nigeria, meaning less security per camp. Displaced residents have complained that soldiers are not careful in terms of regulating who comes in and out of the camps. Some of the displaced persons could and have been Boko Haram members masquerading as IDPs. Without a thorough process of properly ascertaining their identities, Boko Haram has taken advantage of the lax security.


It aligns with their strategy to rule the North

Displaced persons are in camps, because they were either driven out from their homes by Boko Haram or rescued by Nigerian soldiers from the Boko Haram self-declared-caliphate. However, Boko Haram is making a statement- they are everywhere.

This tactic is similar to ISIS’s strategy in Europe. Thousands of Syrian refugees have fled to Europe, with ISIS members hiding among them. The events in Europe in the past two weeks have unveiled the full scale capacity of ISIS’s strategy. According to Nafeez Ahmed, “ISIS recognizes that it has only marginal support amongst Muslims around the world. The only way it can accelerate recruitment and strengthen its territorial ambitions is twofold: firstly, demonstrating to Islamist jihadist networks that there is now only one credible terror game in town capable of pulling off spectacular terrorist attacks in the heart of the west, and two, by deteriorating conditions of life for Muslims all over the world to draw them into joining or supporting ISIS.”

Boko Haram’s recent attacks suggest something similar. These attacks aim to discourage displaced people and force them to return to their towns and villages under Boko Haram rule, because the government cannot protect them.

It is critical that the Nigerian government provide better security at these camps, but furthermore they need to place close attention to how Boko Haram’s strategies are changing, and counteract them.

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