The President's Take
On the first working day of every month, Crisis Group refreshes CrisisWatch, our early-warning tool providing regular updates on the most significant conflicts around the world. It’s one of our most popular features because it is an inestimable resource for all who care about conflict and want to know both the dangers that lurk and the opportunities that arise. Beginning this month, I will add a brief commentary of my own.
This time, I am highlighting two conflict situations: the Korean peninsula, where the potential for a catastrophe of untold proportions comes hand-in-hand with a rare chance for de-escalation; and Israel-Palestine, where a conflict that remains dormant until it inevitably flares up was made more dangerous by the U.S. president’s pronouncements.
As to the former: North and South Korea have agreed to resume contacts in the context of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics; Pyongyang put some of its more provocative actions on the back burner; and Washington postponed its military exercises. These steps should be built upon to avoid an outcome as absurd as it would be tragic: having the U.S. risk a nuclear war in order to avoid one.
As to the latter: for some time now, one of President Abbas’s chief functions has been to maintain as many illusions as possible amid widespread Palestinian disillusionment – with the peace process, the U.S., non-violence, and the two-state solution. Through his actions and words, President Trump has been systematically stripping away even the pretense of an illusion. The danger is that he reap what he has sowed.
President & CEO
Army early Dec launched Operation Rescue Final against Boko Haram (BH) in NE and claimed successes, but insurgency remained unvanquished. Army 22 Dec reported 1,880 captives rescued and over 500 insurgents arrested in previous week; 28 Dec said another 1,240 suspected insurgents including 504 children arrested; President Buhari 24 Dec said army had crushed last remaining BH stronghold. BH continued attacks: eight female suicide bombers carried out five attacks 9-31 Dec, notably on market in Madagali town, Adamawa state 9 Dec, killing at least 56; army arrested at least six other suicide bombers trying to detonate explosives; BH faction leader Shekau in 30 Dec video vowed to fight on; BH 31 Dec attacked military in Rann, Borno state but were repelled and at least fifteen BH killed. In Niger Delta electoral commission reported 70 violent incidents during 10 Dec re-run of federal parliament elections in Rivers state including: political thugs ambushed policemen in Uju community, beheaded two. Violence between rival cult groups in Omoku, Rivers state 24 Dec killed at least eight. Violence escalated in Kaduna state in north central zone: suspected Fulani-Muslim gunmen repeatedly attacked mainly Christian communities in southern Kaduna state; Christian Association of Nigeria 30 Dec reported 808 people killed, 1,422 houses and sixteen churches destroyed. Relations between Kaduna state govt and Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) remained tense: high court 2 Dec ordered federal govt to release detained IMN leader Ibrahim Zakzaky within 45 days and pay fine for unlawful detention; Kaduna state govt 5 Dec declared IMN an insurgent group, vowing to prosecute Zakzaky; 18 Dec banned all marches. In Zamfara state in NW, bandits 12 Dec abducted about 35 women at Matankari, state govt next day said about 30 rescued; 13 Dec abducted twelve men near Yar’ Tashar Sahabi. At 14 Dec talks bandits promised to stop violence; over 1,000 bandits 18 Dec surrendered arms to govt in Zurmi local govt area. In NE at least 42 people killed in clashes between Fulani herders and Tiv farmers in Taraba state 17-18 Dec. In SW, police 28 Dec said it foiled plan to bomb Lagos bridge by locally-based criminals.
Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks against military and civilians in Borno state in NE as violence spiked in NW and continued in Niger Delta, SE. BH attacked army 4 Nov in Mallam Fatori, 7 Nov in Kangarwa, 14 Nov and 15 Nov on Bita-Piridang axis killing eight soldiers; thirteen insurgents killed. BH attacks on villages killed more than two dozen, including in two villages near Monguno 14-15 Nov, three villages near Askira 23 Nov. 30 BH killed in attack on govt convoy near Bama 26 Nov, seven reportedly killed 19 Nov during encounter with troops in Kangarwa. BH stepped up suicide bombing in state capital Maiduguri: eight suspected BH blew themselves up at military checkpoint 2 Nov; two suicide bombings 18 Nov killed at least six people. Security situation in NW deteriorated. Violence erupted as police tried to break up annual trek by Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in Kano 14 Nov, one policeman and nineteen IMN members killed; at least thirteen, mostly IMN members, killed in further violence in Funtua, Kaduna and Sokoto cities same day. Zamfara state governor 21 Nov reported bandits and cattle rustlers had killed 155 people and kidnapped over 50 in state in Nov. Cattle-rustling gang 16 Nov killed six men and stole over 700 cows in Kukoki, Niger state. Herder-farmer violence continued including: herdsmen attacked five villages in Kaura LGA, Kaduna state 13 Nov, at least 43 killed; unidentified gunmen attacked village in Tafan district, Kaduna state 25 Nov killing four. Federal govt began talks with Niger Delta leaders but attacks on oil facilities continued. Pan Niger Delta Forum ethnic and political leaders urged President Buhari in 1 Nov talks to withdraw army from region, order oil firms to relocate HQs to Delta and invest more in development. Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) blew up three pipelines in Nembe, Bayelsa state 15 Nov. NDA and Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM) conditioned talks on govt withdrawing troops from region. Gunmen 21 Nov killed four members of paramilitary Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps at oil facility in Rivers state. Unidentified group reportedly blew up oil pipeline in Delta state 27 Nov.
Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks in Borno state in NE, while mobs attacked Shia Muslims in four states. Army chief 18 Oct said BH insurgents “completely” chased out of country, but attacks continued. IED killed at least eight civilians, wounded fifteen in Maiduguri 12 Oct. BH overran military camp in Gashigar 17 Oct, claimed to have killed twenty soldiers, contradicted by army which said thirteen soldiers wounded and unknown number missing. BH attacked Kallali and Goptari villages near Chibok 16 and 18 Oct; two suicide bombers 29 Oct killed nine, wounded 24 in Maiduguri. Abubakar Shekau-led BH faction 14 Oct freed 21 of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok April 2014; govt said it made no concessions in exchange, but media sources said it freed five BH commanders. Kaduna state (centre) 7 Oct banned Shiite Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). Mobs 12 Oct attacked IMN members during Islamic New Year celebrations in Kaduna, Katsina (N) and Sokoto (NW) states and burnt down IMN worship centre in Plateau state (centre); police said ten IMN members killed, IMN reported twenty casualties. Niger Delta saw reduced violence in Oct and signs of progress toward talks, though armed groups claimed destruction of oil facilities and pipelines in Delta and Edo states. Suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked Godogodo town, southern Kaduna state 15-16 Oct, killing at least twenty. Mob 17 Oct killed fourteen herdsmen near Kaduna city.
Security in north east showed signs of improving, but Boko Haram (BH) insurgents vowed to continue attacks and militants in Niger Delta continued to vandalise oil facilities. BH fighters ambushed civilian convoy between Monguno and Maiduguri, Borno state 10 Sept, killing one; ambushed army-escorted commercial convoy between Damboa and Maiduguri 19 Sept killing six civilians and wounding three soldiers; attacked Kwang and Boftari villages, southern Borno state 27 Sept, killing at least eight civilians; BH factional leader, Abubakar Shekau, appeared in video 25 Sept after period out of public eye, rejecting army’s claims he had been seriously wounded in airstrike. Army said BH attacked military post 25 Sept in Maiduguri area, eight soldiers and two dozen BH fighters killed. Army 28 Sept said troops killed nine suspected BH at Bulabulin, Borno state. Army said it will soon launch “Operation Rescue Final” to free all BH’s abductees. In Niger Delta, main militant group Niger Delta Avengers maintained unilaterally declared ceasefire till 23 Sept when it claimed responsibility for attack on Trans Niger Pipeline, Rivers state, forcing Shell oil company to close pipeline. Another armed group, Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, bombed major pipelines of govt-owned Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) in Delta state 18 Sept and 29 Sept. Gunmen kidnapped fourteen oil company staff in Ogba Egbema Ndoni local govt area, Rivers state 2 Sept; five escaped and police 17 Sept said it had rescued remaining nine after gun battle. Army 17 Sept said it had killed 23 militants and destroyed 38 militants’ camps in Niger Delta since “Operation Crocodile Smile” started 29 Aug. Soldiers killed fifteen suspected bandits in Dumburun forest, Zamfara state 7-10 Sept. Clash between robber gang and locals at Senga village, Benue state 14 Sept killed at least thirteen locals. Shia Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) 19 Sept said it would protest in Abuja if govt did not release within two weeks its leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, arrested Dec 2015 after clash between IMN members and army in Zaria (north). Police 22 Sept used tear gas to disperse IMN protesters in Abuja.
Military continued offensive against Boko Haram (BH) in NE of Borno state, vandalism eased in Niger Delta, communal and religious violence flared in several areas. Islamic State 3 Aug named Abu Musab al-Barnawi new BH leader, replacing Abubakar Shekau, who rejected appointment. Army said it killed sixteen insurgents 14 Aug repelling BH attack in Kangarwa; air force said it killed some 300 insurgents including three key commanders 19 Aug. BH attacked Kuburubu 20 Aug killing six and abducting thirteen; next day burnt down Shawa village near Chibok. BH 14 Aug released video showing some 50 of over 200 girls abducted in Chibok in 2014, demanding govt free captured fighters in exchange for their release; President Buhari 28 Aug said govt ready to negotiate. In Niger Delta, attacks on oil installations declined relative to July. Unidentified gunmen 7 Aug killed three soldiers in Nembe area, Bayelsa state. New armed group Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate claimed three attacks on oil pipelines in Delta state 18, 19 and 30 Aug. Niger Delta Avengers and other groups late Aug suspended attacks, laid out conditions for talks. Herder-farmer clashes continued: suspected herders killed 30 in Kodomun, Adamawa state 29 July-1 Aug; killed two in Ndiagu Attakwu, Enugu state 25 Aug. Communal and religious violence flared in five other states killing at least 47: unidentified gunmen killed eleven near Godogodo, Kaduna state 2 Aug; at least five killed in clash between Share and Tsaragi communities in Kwara state same day; ten soldiers, seven civilians killed in clash between military and civilians in Kpaidna, Niger state 4 Aug; at least six killed in clash between ethnic Igbo indigenes and Hausa residents in Akokwa, Imo state 11 Aug; mob 22 Aug burnt eight to death over alleged blasphemy against Islam in Talata-Mafara, Zamfara state. Military launched operations against armed groups in Benue and Bauchi states 6 and 20 Aug, and in Niger Delta 29 Aug.
Clashes between military and Boko Haram (BH) insurgents continued in Borno state in NE while violence continued in Niger Delta and Middle Belt and escalated in SW. Troops 8 July repelled BH attack on army base in Rann, killed sixteen insurgents, two soldiers killed. Suspected BH suicide bomber same day attacked mosque in Damboa, killing six. BH 12 July attacked army in Kangarwa, killed two soldiers; several insurgents killed. BH 21 July ambushed army in Guro Gongon village, wounded nineteen soldiers, about eleven missing. Multinational Joint Taskforce 28 July retook Damasak town under BH control since Oct 2014. Humanitarian crisis in NE deepened: UNICEF 14 July said 250,000 children suffering severe malnourishment in Borno state; suspected BH 28 July attacked aid convoy wounding five, UNICEF 30 July said it would continue aid in NE. In Niger Delta, armed groups continued attacks on oil installations: Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) claimed responsibility for at least fourteen attacks on oil and gas installations 1-24 July in Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states. Violence escalated in SW: oil installation vandals 14 and 26 July attacked outlying communities in Lagos and Ogun states; army and navy bombarded vandals’ base 28 July, killed scores. Clashes between pastoralists and sedentary crop farmers continued especially in Middle Belt: at least four killed in Niger state 8 July; community leaders 9 July reported over 80 killed in Logo and Ukum areas, Benue state in previous two weeks, police reported 22 killed; suspected herdsmen 18 July killed traditional ruler in Plateau state. President Buhari 13 July launched military operation to curb rural banditry in Zamfara state: army 17 July reported eleven bandits killed.
Insecurity in Niger Delta worsened. Armed group Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) vandalised Nigerian and foreign-run oil and gas facilities, including three in Bayelsa, two in Delta and one in Akwa Ibom states. Six other previously unknown groups also threatened attacks. State-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation 9 June said attacks had cut electricity production by over 1,500 megawatts, about half usual national output. Govt 6 June offered to negotiate with armed groups but military continued operations against them; NDA 8 June refused talks, other groups agreed but set conditions. Suspected Niger Delta vandals attacked communities in Ikorodu area, Lagos state 23-24 June, killing at least 22 people, raising fears Delta violence may be spreading to SW zone. Unidentified gunmen 22 June kidnapped five foreigners and two Nigerians in Cross River state and killed their driver; freed captives 26 June. Nigerian military and multinational force continued operations against Boko Haram in NE; insurgents attacked police station and military post in Kanama, Yobe state 7 June, killing seven; attacked army positions in Pulka, Borno state 12 June, six killed as soldiers repelled them; insurgents killed four civilians and abducted four women in Kutuva, Borno state 14 June; killed 24 civilians in Kuda-Kaya, Adamawa state 16 June. Aid agencies reported critical humanitarian situation in parts of NE, called for urgent response. Suspected Fulani herdsmen killed about 59 people in Logo area of Benue state 18-19 June.
Security in Niger Delta deteriorated further, cutting oil output to lowest in two decades and reducing national electricity supply. Little-known group Niger Delta Avengers claimed six attacks during month on facilities operated by Chevron, Shell, Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Delta and Bayelsa states. Security forces attacked Delta militants 26 May, unknown number killed. Hitherto unknown group Egbesu Mightier Fraternity next day threatened to attack offshore oil facilities in Delta if govt did not release within two weeks Biafra separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu and former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki. Security forces clashed with Biafra separatist agitators in several SE cities 30 May, at least twenty killed. Army continued operations to clear Boko Haram (BH) strongholds in NE Borno state’s Sambisa forest, reporting several gains during month: 14 May repelled insurgents’ attack; 17 May found escaped Chibok girl kidnapped April 2014; 19 May freed 97 girls and women. Clashes between farmers and Fulani herdsmen continued in several states: suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked two villages in Zamfara state 4 May, at least ten people killed; attacked three villages in Taraba state 7 May, about thirteen killed; attacked Tarfi, Benue state 13 May, at least five killed.
Govt continued operations against Boko Haram (BH) in NE Borno state; claimed it killed over 120 insurgents, arrested three commanders, captured twelve camps and rescued over 2,000 captives during month. Govt said it arrested Khaled al-Barnawi, leader of BH splinter group Ansaru, with three others 1 April in Lokoja, Kogi state. BH 1 April posted video online insisting leader Abubakar Shekau still in charge after March video suggested he would step down. Clashes between herdsmen and farmers continued: about 30 killed in four villages in Taraba state 10 April; eighteen killed in Moor, Benue state 18 April; about 40 killed in Nimbo, Enugu state 24 April. Security in Niger Delta threatened to deteriorate; little known group Niger Delta Avengers threatened to step up attacks on oil facilities after govt 16 April proposed setting up special security force to combat pipeline vandalism. President Buhari 28 April announced plan to establish multinational task force to patrol Gulf of Guinea.
Despite govt repeating claims that Boko Haram (BH) defeated, violence continued, albeit at lower rate. BH insurgents 14 March stormed Mussa village in Askira/Uba local govt area, Borno state, killing at least fifteen. Two female suicide bombers 16 March attacked mosque in Ummamari village near Maiduguri, killing at least 22. Army reported scores of insurgents killed, over 100 hostages freed, several villages reclaimed in operations during month. Clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farming communities continued in Benue state; after hundreds reportedly killed in Agatu area late Feb, at least fifteen killed 17 March in Tombo village, Buruku local govt area. In Niger Delta, suspected pirates 17 March attacked army patrol in Abonema, Rivers state killing two soldiers; at least five killed 19 March during repeat state and federal constituency elections in Rivers state. Gunmen kidnapped and killed army colonel in Kaduna state 27 March amid spike in kidnappings in several states. In ongoing anti-corruption drive, court 7 March arraigned former chief of defence staff, Ret Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, for diverting 3.97bn naira (about $19.5mn).
Govt reported further gains in fight against Boko Haram (BH) including: troops 3 Feb reportedly killed over 100 BH insurgents and freed some 1,000 people held by BH in Boboshe, Garidawaji and Mamawari villages, Borno state; army 18 Feb said troops ambushed and killed scores of insurgents near Sambisa forest, Borno state. President Buhari 28 Feb said BH no longer a threat to Nigeria’s security. BH continued attacks in Borno state, including 9 Feb suicide bombing in displaced persons’ camp in Dikwa, some 60 killed. Over 100 killed in clashes between Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farmers in four locations in Agatu area, Benue state throughout month; Buhari 27 Feb ordered investigation. Clashes erupted 12 Feb between rival cult groups, Icelanders and Sailors, in Omoku, Rivers state, at least fifteen killed; soldiers and militants exchanged fire 22 Feb in Ogoni area of Rivers state, casualties unconfirmed. Amid concerns of possible unrest in region, govt 15 Feb announced extension of Presidential Amnesty Program for former Niger Delta militants to 2018. Unknown militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, 21 Feb claimed it was responsible for blowing up Forcados terminal pipeline 14-16 Jan in Delta state; warned of further attacks on oil installations until govt addresses grievances. Federal anti-graft agency Economic and Financial Crimes Commission continued investigations; 21 Feb said former chief of defence staff Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh and former air force chief Air Marshal Olusola Amosu arrested and under interrogation over arms procurement fraud.
Chief of Defence Staff General Gabriel Olonisakin 11 Jan said Boko Haram (BH) no longer capable of carrying out coordinated attacks, however at least 125 civilians killed in multiple attacks during month. Army 15 Jan repelled BH attack on 120 Task Force Battalion at Goniri, Yobe state with one soldier and fourteen insurgents killed; army 22 Jan claimed about 70 insurgents killed and 370 hostages freed in several operations; 24 Jan repelled attack on Babangida town, Yobe state, with several insurgents killed. BH attacks continued on villages and IDP camps in Borno state killing at least 105 and in Adamawa state killing 30. Govt 14 Jan extended amnesty program for former Niger Delta militants, scheduled to end Dec 2015, for another year. Armed men blew up several major oil and gas pipelines 14-16 Jan in Warri area of Delta state; attack followed court-ordered arrest of prominent ex-militant leader Government Ekpemupolo. Members of separatist organisation Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) 18 Jan clashed with security operatives in Aba, Abia state; IPOB reported eight members killed, 30 wounded, 26 arrested. Investigation of alleged massive fraud in arms procurement under previous administration continued: former air force chief, Air Marshal Olusola Amosu, arrested 27 Jan and detained by federal anti-graft agency, EFCC.