Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in four states (Borno, Yobe, Niger and plateau states) since the Christmas Day attack. Jonathan said what was a sectarian crisis in the North East evolved into terrorism across the country. “The crisis has assumed a terrorist dimension with vital institutions of government including the UN Building and places of worship becoming targets of attacks,” he said. Jonathan also closed the borders next to the four affected states. Jonathan was speaking on a visit to the Catholic Church in Madalla near the capital Abuja where 44 people were killed by a bomb as they were leaving a Christmas Day mass. During his address, many worshippers cried uncontrollably, including two women who lost their husbands and four children in the attack. Parish priest, Reverend Father Isaac Achi, said the church had forgiven the attackers. “On behalf of Christians in this country and Christ lovers… we have forgiven them from the bottom of our hearts,” he said. “We pray that such thing will not occur again in any place in this country.”
Islamic northern Nigeria has always been suspicious of western ways and there were major riots in 1980 against Christian interests that claimed 4,000 lives. The rise of Islamism across the world has strengthened hardliners and there was a major outbreak of violence in 2009 with riots across six provinces and 1500 dead. Security forces killed 500 extremists in Borno.
Boko Haram gained widespread support in a short period of time. Yusuf was captured in 2009 and was “shot dead trying to escape“. His martyrdom gave the group renewed strength. In August 2011, Boko Haram attacked UN headquarters in Abuja with a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, killing 23 and injuring 80 others.
A US Committee on Homeland Security report of November 2011 said Boko Haram was a threat to the US. It had alliances with Algerian-based Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb and al Shabaab in Somalia. The report said US intelligence underestimated the potential for al Qaeda affiliate groups to target the US, wrongly assessing they had only regional ambitions and its American threats were “aspirational.” They urged increased intelligence collection, outreach with the Nigerian Diaspora and better co-operation with Nigerian security and counter-intelligence services.