By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
ABUJA, Nigeria—Britain today advised its citizens against traveling to several regions of Northern Nigeria after a recent increase in attacks that have been blamed on Islamist militants and the kidnapping of several foreigners earlier this month.
The country also advised against “all-but-essential travel” to the Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and Katsina states of Nigeria. These attacks by Islamist groups in this region have become the biggest threat to stability in Africa’s top oil producer.
Most recently gunmen killed a security guard and abducted a Brit, an Italian, a Greek and four Lebanese workers after storming and attacking the compound of a Lebanese construction firm in the Bauchi state of Northern Nigeria on February 16. This kidnapping was considered the worst case of foreigners being kidnapped in this region.
Western governments are also concerned that the militants may link up with other groups in the region including al Qaida’s North Africa wing, especially given the conflict in nearby Mali.
The Islamist group Ansaru claimed responsibility for the attack on the Lebanese compound, Setraco. The raid was “based on the transgression and atrocities done to the religion of Allah by the European countries in many places such as Afghanistan and Mali,” said the group which has also kidnapped other foreigners in Nigeria in the past. The group’s full name is Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan, which translates roughly to “Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa.” The group is also believed to be a breakaway group from the better-known Islamist sect Boko Haram. The Boko Haram group has killed hundreds in recent months in its own attempt to carve out an Islamic state in Nigeria which is a country truly split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims.
In November, Britain had put the Ansaru group on its official “terrorist group” list, noting that it was aligned with al Qaida and was behind the kidnapping and abduction of two Europeans killed last year during a failed rescue attempt.
This violence is not only affecting travel, but is also stunting economic development in North Nigeria and risks increasing the divide with the wealthier and largely Christian south, which is also the home to the commercial hub Lagos and the oil-producing Niger Delta region.
For further information, please see:
Business Day – Britain Warns Citizens Against Visits to Northern Nigeria – 27 February 2013
Reuters – Britain Warns Against Travel to Northern Nigeria After Islamist Raids – 27 February 2013
Channels – France Says Will Not Negotiate With Boko Haram Over Family Hostage – 26 February 2013
Daily Nation – Nigeria Military Claims It Kills 17 Islamists in Raid– 2 February 2013