U.S. Says Boko Haram May Attack Nigerian City of Maiduguri

The U.S. is concerned the Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram may try to attack a key city in the northeast of Africa’s biggest oil producer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

On Sept. 2, Boko Haram captured the northeastern town of Bama, about 72 kilometers (45 miles) southeast of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, a senator representing the region said. That came less than two weeks after the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, declared the town of Gwoza, also in Borno, a “caliphate under Islamic law.”

“We are very troubled by the apparent capture of Bama and the prospects for an attack on and in Maiduguri, which would impose a tremendous toll on the civilian population,” Thomas-Greenfield said in remarks e-mailed by the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Abuja, where she’s on an official visit.

Boko Haram, which has been battling the Nigerian state since 2009, killed more than 2,000 people in the first half of this year in an escalating campaign of bomb and gun attacks, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. More than 350,000 people in the northeastern states where the violence is fiercest fled their homes in the first seven months, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

The U.S. will soon announce a major border security program involving Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, Thomas-Greenfield said.

“Boko Haram has shown that it can operate not only in the northeast, but in Kano, in Abuja, and elsewhere,” Greenfield said. “The frequency and scope of Boko Haram’s terror attacks have grown more acute and constitute a serious threat to this country’s overall security.”

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