'Hardline takeover' blamed for latest Boko Haram violence

18 September 2018 - 17:33 By AFP
Boko Haram. (File photo)
Boko Haram. (File photo)
Image: Times Media

The execution of a kidnapped aid worker and the apparent death of a senior factional leader have sparked fears of an upsurge in Boko Haram violence in northeast Nigeria.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Monday announced that one of its employees, midwife Saifura Khorsa, had been killed after more than six months in captivity.

That followed reports last week that hardliners in the Boko Haram splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap) had killed their de facto leader, Mamman Nur.

Recent weeks have seen a marked increase in Iswap attacks on the military, which security analysts tracking the conflict said was a sign of renewed strength and organisation.

But sources with a deep knowledge of Iswap activities and talks with the government said it also followed the death of Nur, who was allegedly killed because of his more moderate approach.

Iswap has previously vowed to hit only military and government "hard" targets, unlike the faction headed by Abubakar Shekau, which has repeatedly attacked civilians.

"The death of Mamman Nur has lifted the lid off the radical elements in the group, who prefer indiscriminate violence as carried out by Shekau," said one source. "The case of Saifura Khorsa is just the beginning of more nightmares to come." 

The source said Nur, the alleged mastermind of an August 2011 Boko Haram attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja that killed 25, was seen as a more "stabilising" element.

"Now that hardliners have killed him and taken over control, they are running berserk, as was demonstrated in the execution of Saifura Khorsa," he added.