By Jason Patrick
Back-to-back explosions killed at least 118 and wounded 45 in the business district of Jos on 20 May. The second blast occurred 20 minutes after the first and appeared to target first responders. Although no group has claimed responsibility, Nigerian authorities stated that the attack was consistent with previous attacks conducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
Jos is located in the state of Kaduna and lies in the volatile “middle belt” of Nigeria separating the mostly Christian south from the Muslim north. The region witnessed an attack by Fulani tribesmen on 14 March that left at least 100 Christian farmers dead.
Boko Haram has capitalized on this inter-communal animosity in the past by provoking fighting between the two groups. In 2010, Boko Haram claimed to have carried out a bombing against a Christian church in Jos. The ensuing reprisals ultimately killed over 200 by the end of the following month.
It is unclear if the 20 May attack targeted a particular group or if was an indiscriminate attack meant to demonstrate to locals that the Nigerian security forces are incapable of providing adequate security. However, this high profile attack has the potential to threaten stability in an already tense region and further demonstrates Boko Haram’s ability to reach beyond its key power center in the northeast corner of Nigeria.
Today’s attack comes on the heals of a multi-lateral effort to combat Boko Haram announced during a meeting with heads of state from West Africa and leaders of several Western nations in Paris. Despite the presence of French forces in several regional countries, the introduction of law enforcement assistance and intelligence sharing from several other Western nations, brazen attacks similar to the attack in Jos and the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Chibok will likely continue unabated until serious coordinated counterterrorism efforts are implemented.