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Boko Haram: Increased attacks plague President Buhari’s first months

Two bomb attacks on the city of Jos have left up to 67 people dead on Sunday in a recent surge of attacks by the Islamist militant group. President Buhari vowed to stamp out the group in his inauguration address just over a month ago.

Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during a news conference after the Summit of Heads of State and Government of The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) in Abuja, Nigeria, June 11, 2015. Nigeria and its neighbours agreed on Thursday to set up a joint military force to counter Boko Haram, a sign of President Muhammadu Buhari's intent to crush the Islamist militant group early in his tenure.

Explosions at a mosque and a Muslim restaurant in the Nigerian city of Jos Sunday night left scores dead, in an attack being blamed on Boko Haram and that promises Nigeria's continued conflict with the militant group under new President Muhammadu Buhari now in his second month in office.

The mosque bombing appeared to target leading cleric Sani Yahaya of the Jama'atu Izalatul Bidia organization. The group advocates peace between faiths, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Yahaya was preaching to a crowded congregation in Jos when the attack took place, involving both gunfire and a suicide bomber, the BBC adds. Yahaya survived the bombing.

The second attack took place at the Shagalinku restaurant, which the AP says is frequented by state politicians and elite figures. The restaurant was full of people when the bomb exploded, just after the break of the daily fast during Ramadan.

Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency told the BBC that 23 were killed at the restaurant and 21 at the mosque. At least 47 more were injured, with AP putting that toll at 67. 

Though no group has yet claimed responsibility, the attacks have the earmarks of those by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, which has waged a yeares-long campaign against the Nigerian government.

The group is based in the northeast where it captured a large swath of territory last year; it has since been beaten back severely by multinational forces. In March, it became the Islamic State's West African affiliate.

Although Jos, where the latest attacks occurred, lies in central Nigeria, far from Boko Haram's home territory, it has been the target of the group's activities before, including a pair of car bombings in May 2014 that killed more than 100 people.

President Buhari, who was sworn in just over a month ago, has promised that defeating the group is the top priority of his administration. Since Boko Haram had said explicitly that its aim was to create conditions to remove previous Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan from office (President Jonathan is a Christian from the south) hopes remain that the group may slowly reduce its terror tactics. 

Yet Boko Haram over the past week has been lethal. Since the last days of June, it launched several suicide bombings and gun attacks on sites in the northeast Nigeria, leaving more than 200 dead. Buhari called the spate of violence a "heinous atrocity," the BBC reports.

A report last month by Amnesty International says that Nigeria's tactics against Boko Haram have also proven deadly to the country's citizens as well. The report says that the Army killed some 8,000 civilians during its campaign against the insurgent group, and accused several military leaders of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Amnesty report accused the military of detaining more than 20,000 people in brutal conditions that led to numerous deaths. "Former detainees and senior military sources described how detainees were regularly tortured to death — hung on poles over fires, tossed into deep pits or interrogated using electric batons," it said. 

The Ministry of Defense denounced the Amnesty report and claimed the organization was trying to “blackmail” the military elite.

Agence France-Presse writes that Buhari's administration is struggling in its first month even outside of the fight against Boko Haram. The country's economy is floundering amid rampant corruption and low prices for oil, which is the cornerstone of government revenue.

While Buhari has promised to root out corruption, his efforts have been hampered by political infighting within his governing coalition. And government officials still receive some of the highest state salaries in the world – some $200,000, per the Economist – despite broad calls to lower them.

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