BOKO HARAM, a radical Islamic sect killed at least 63 people in a spate of coordinated gun and bomb attacks in Yobe, a state in Nigeria’s northeast.
The attacks in the towns of Damaturu and Potiskum, which took place on Saturday, followed a triple suicide bombing at Nigeria's military headquarters and three roadside bombs in Maiduguri, the capital of the remote north-eastern state Borno. The violence is some of worst seen in the north-east since the Islamist sect launched an insurgency against the government in 2009.
The mortuary in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, was overwhelmed as a single employee coped with the influx of dead bodies. Witnesses say the city resembled a war zone with bodies littering the streets and buildings reduced to rubble. Red Cross officials estimate over 100 were killed. Explosives in Damaturu destroyed police headquarters, the Joint Task Force office and five churches. Gunmen in Potiskum battled security forces for several hours.
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sinful", is demanding the wider application of sharia law in Nigeria. The group has been growing in ambition and capability in recent months, threatening Nigeria with terrorist violence almost daily. In August, a suicide bombing at the United Nations' offices killed 26 people, marking an escalation in the terrorist threat in Africa's most populous nation.
Recently, the sect has threatened to bomb universities and has killed politicians and police officers. In October, Malam Zakanya Isa, a newscaster and Hausa translator was the first journalist to be assassinated by the group.
More attacks are coming, threatened Boko Haram in a statement to the Daily Trust, a local Nigerian newspaper. The sect pledged to continue to attack federal government foundations until security forces stopped targeting its members.
President Goodluck Jonathan has deployed troops across the region but with little success; some critics say it has caused more harm than good. Nigerians are growing weary as the security forces fail to contain the growing threat. The military Joint Task Force has been accused of being heavy-handed in its approach, fueling Boko Haram's anger at the government.
Social problems in the north have fed the violence. The government's failure to deliver on promised programmes to tackle unemployment, improve infrastructure and provide adequate healthcare and education facilities, in northern Nigeria has created a climate of desperation allowing extremists to exploit those who feel marginalised and disenfranchised. Borno state is the poorest state in the country by every human-development indicator. Its residents are worse off than those of Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
On Sunday the American embassy took the unusual step of specially warning its citizens of possible attacks in Abuja during the Sallah holiday, picking out three big hotels as potential targets. Those venturing into big hotels had both their car engines and boots checked for bombs. The Transcorp Hilton hotel, usually full of diplomats, politicians and the business elite was deserted on Monday. The hotel's head of public relations said occupancy had suffered as a result of the security crisis in Nigeria. Suicide bombs are now becoming standard practice for Boko Haram. Many fear that the weekend's attacks could be followed by strikes in the nation's capital.