A suicide bomber detonated explosives in a mosque in Maiduguri, Nigeria, on Friday, the latest in a string of attacks by Boko Haram in the northeastern city in the past month.
Twin bomb blasts went off during pre-dawn prayers at 5 a.m, killing at least 18 people, the Associated Press reports. The injured toll is at 20. A witness said there appeared to be only one bomber involved, even though two blasts were heard.
Boko Haram has increasingly used suicide bombers to target civilians, a new strategy that the Nigerian military says shows the group’s desperation. The military has made significant headway in curbing the insurgency, and pushing the Islamist group – under the name Islamic State in West Africa Province – further into Nigeria's Sambisa Forest.
But in response, militants have become more strategic with their targets, focusing on major cities like Abuja, the capital, and Maiduguri, which serves as the headquarters of the counterinsurgency effort and the birthplace of Boko Haram. Allen Grane of the Council of Foreign Relations writes:
At least as worrying is the increased geographical spread in Boko Haram attacks. In the past few weeks there have been a number of attacks in Chad and Niger. Recently, Boko Haram has also attacked targets in the capital of Nigeria, Abuja, and in Kogi State. These venues are further south than Boko Haram’s typical area of operations. More Nigerians outside of the northeast could be facing Boko Haram attacks for the first time.
This week, the Nigerian police warned that the group was now building bombs within electronic devices like tablets, phones, and laptops, then leaving them for unsuspecting Nigerians to pick up. The police chief issued the warning after the arraignment on Thursday of five suspects connected with a double bombing in Nigeria’s capital that killed 18 people on Oct. 2.
The defendants were charged with conspiracy and acts of terrorism, according to Agence France-Presse. The case, at the Federal High Court in Abuja, was adjourned until a further hearing on November 17.
But even if Boko Haram militants are captured, more terrorist attacks should be expected, The Christian Science Monitor reported in September. Experts say the government should focus on providing security around towns and villages:
“The increase in bomb blasts in recent times can only be curtailed if our security works with preventive measures not reactive measures,” says Baba Oliver, a security analyst.
Others agree, saying that the key issues remain in surveillance and intelligence gathering, something Buhari hopes to address in working with western allies. But many say the efforts need to be community based.
“They should set up mechanisms that people can use to report," says Aisha Yesufu, leader of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign. “Even if it is a simple line that people can call into and report suspicious activities before they actually happen.”
More than 1,000 people have been killed since President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in March with a pledge to wipe out Boko Haram. The group is held responsible for the death of about 20,000 people since 2009. At least 2.1 million people have been displaced by the fighting.