DECEMBER 11, 2020
In an audio tape, the leader of Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group, Abubakar Shekau, has claimed responsibility for the mass abduction of students in north-western Katsina state to “promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices.” Hundreds of gunmen overran the all-boys Government Science secondary school in the town of Kankara and took more than 300 students into surrounding forests. Though the attack bore the hallmarks of a Boko Haram (see Chibok mass kidnapping in 2014), there is doubt over the direct involvement of the militant group in the latest mass kidnapping as Shekau’s statement lacked detail, and officials in Katsina have already received ransom demands from a group of bandits that witnesses said were responsible. However, it is possible that the bandits may have transferred some or all of the kidnapped schoolboys to the extremists in return for money, weapons or other resources as there are close relations between armed criminals, traffickers and Islamist extremists across the entire Sahel region. If the kidnapping indeed was carried out by the Boko Haram, the attack marks an alarming expansion of the group to west Nigeria, nearly 800 Km/500 miles west of its stronghold in Borno state. Kidnappings for ransom by bandits have become commonplace across much of the north-west in recent years, with frequent ambushes on roads, as well as fatal robberies targeting cattle and food. Towns close to forests stretching across north-west Nigeria and into Niger have been the most vulnerable to attacks. According to Amnesty International, 1,126 people were killed by bandits in Nigeria between January and June this year. (theguardian.com, 15 December 2020 & washingtonpost.com, 15 December 2020)
At least 16 students kidnapped by gunmen from a school in Katsina state escaped their kidnappers, a state government according to a spokesman for Katsina Governor Aminu Masari. At least 337 students were reported missing after gunmen attacked a boys’ boarding school in the town of Kankara. Unlike previous, reports, the spokesman stated that the government is not negotiating with the kidnappers. (bloomberg.com, 15 December 2020)
At around 9:40 p.m. a large group of unidentified gunmen on motorcycles attacked the Government Science secondary school, an all-boys boarding school, located in the Kankara district of the northwestern Katsina state. The gunmen traded fire with police officers guarding the school, wounding one of them. About 200 students who fled for safety during the assault have returned, but at least 333 of the 800 students remain missing. Police said they were working with the army and air force to determine how many students were missing or kidnapped, and to find them. According to nearby residents,’ gunfire was heard from the school up until 11 p.m. local time. Following what appears as the largest mass kidnapping in the country, Katsina state Governor, Aminu Masari, ordered the immediate closure of all boarding school in the state. (reuters.com, 12 December 2020 & bbc.com, 12 December 2020)
NOVEMBER 29, 2020
A suicide car bomber detonated a military Humvee VBIED at the entrance to the compound of the public protection force, a wing of the Afghan security forces, in the city of Ghazni, the provincial capital of Ghazni province. At least 31 soldiers were killed in the blast and 24 were injured. According to local officials, the number of casualties is likely to increase given the intensity and location of the blast. The explosion damaged civilian residences around the compound, and there could be more casualties buried under the rubble. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghanistan has seen a spate of car bombings over the last few months, despite peace talks being between the Taliban and the government in the Qatari capital of Doha.
NOVEMBER 28, 2020
At least 110 people were killed in an attack on farm workers in the northeastern Borno state by Islamists militants, marking the deadliest attack on civilians this year. The attack targeted farm workers harvesting rice fields in the villages of Zabarmari and Koshobe near Maiduguri, the state capital. The assailants arrived on motorcycles and tied up the laborers after which they beheaded about 30 men and slit their throats of the others. The death toll was revised after initial tolls indicated 43 and then at least 70 dead. Six people were severely injured in attack and eight—believed to be women- remain missing and presumed to have been kidnapped by the assailants. The victims included dozens of workers from the northwestern Sokoto state, about 1,000Km/ 600 miles away, who had travelled to the northeast to find work. It is yet unclear who carried the attack, with some locals blaming the Boko Haram militant group, though its Islamic State affiliated splinter group the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) more active in the area. Both groups have been blamed for increasing attacks on loggers, farmers and fishermen whom they accuse of spying for the army and pro-government militia. The attack came on the same day as long-delayed local elections in the state.
NOVEMBER 26, 2020
Heriberto Glas Espinel, 49 , a lawyer and brother of former vice president Jorge Glas, was rescued in the early morning hours by a team from the National Police Anti-kidnapping and Extortion Unit (Unase). According police his rescue was achieved through intense field investigation and usage of technological means. Glas who was beaten during the kidnapping, was taken to a medical evaluation. Glas was intercepted and kidnapped at approximately 11:00 on November 26 by armed men driving two cars and two motorcycles along 7th street in the Lomas de Urdesa district of Guayaquil while on his way to his office. The kidnappers took him to a safe house in Mapasingue barrio where his hands and feet were tied, and he was gagged and sedated. His kidnappers contacted his family demanding a ransom of US$400,000 in return for his safe release. On the night of November 27, his kidnappers, who were already identified by the police, transferred him to a house in Samanes, which was raided by the Unase team shortly after. During the rescue operation his seven kidnappers, among them two women were arrested in the location. While the operation was taking place, a police investigation team, was intercepted by three gunmen, who tried to steal their belongings and even shot at the officers. The trio was arrested and charged with attempted murder. Some reports suggested that the incident was related to the kidnapping. (elcomercio.com, 28 November 2020 & vistazo.com, 27 November 2020 & eluniverso.com, 28 November 2020)
NOVEMBER 23, 2020
At around 1 a.m. local time, a group of ten gunmen stormed the family house of the federal Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, in Tofai village, Gabasawa Local government area of Kano State and kidnapped his brother, Babawuro Tofai. The victim, who in his 50s reside with his wife and children in the compound. The Minister’s Personal Assistant confirmed the incident and added that the kidnappers have yet to contact the family with their ransom demands. (vanguardngr.com, 23 November 2020)