This week, the Nigerian insurgent group Boko Haram carried out a large-scale attack on a military air base in the northeastern city of Maiduguri in which 24 attackers were killed, two air force personnel wounded and several military aircraft damaged. In an email interview, Jennifer Giroux, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich who specializes in conflict in energy-producing and transit regions, explained Nigeria’s counterterrorism approach and Boko Haram’s resilience.
WPR: Does Boko Haram's attack on the Maiduguri air base indicate an evolution in the group’s military capabilities?
Jennifer Giroux: This attack is not so much a signal of the group’s tactical evolution but more so a sign of its persistence and abilities in the face of the government’s counterterrorism approach to the northern insurgency. While the scale, location and target indicate a significant amount of planning and coordination, the political undertones are considerable. Namely, this attack seems to be more about sending a clear message to the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan: that despite the enormous resources invested in containing the insurgency, Boko Haram still has strength and reach. In fact, it’s likely that as the next elections approach, there will be similar attacks—all of which will aim to discredit and question this administration’s ability to manage the country’s security issues.