Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to get tough on terrorists and bandits after explosions Thursday killed at least five people at Maiduguri airport just minutes before he arrived. Nigerian authorities have claimed progress in the fight against Islamist insurgents, but security experts say the explosions throw that claim into question.
The president, speaking during his visit to Maiduguri Thursday, said security forces will employ new military hardware in their operations against bandits and terror groups in the north.
The president said, “I have ordered, and we have started receiving, some military hardware, aircraft, armored cars, helicopters, and we are going to be very hard on them.”
Buhari also praised the efforts of troops responding to the insurgency, stating that the security situation in northeastern Nigeria is much better than it used to be.
But the multiple explosions on three areas in Maiduguri, including one a few kilometers away from the airport where the president was to land Thursday, show the terrorists remain active, says security analyst Ebenezer Oyetakin.
“They can still effectively terrorize whosoever is their target, and that is exactly what they have done yesterday,” Oyetakin said. “It also shows that they are still very much around.”
No group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s explosions that killed at least five people, but Borno state residents and experts say the attack bears the hallmark of Boko Haram.
Nigerian authorities say recent operations against the Islamist terrorist group are making a significant impact.
On Thursday, defense authorities said 51 terrorists have been killed within the past two weeks, while more than 1,000 have surrendered.
But Borno State resident and freelance journalist Sani Adam says the surrender of some terrorists does not eliminate the threat.
“The reason why they are surrendering is because they lack leadership because of Shekau’s death,” Adam said. ”
Abubakar Shekau, the head of the chief Boko Haram sect, reportedly was killed in June.
Boko Haram and splinter group, Islamic State West Africa Province, have waged war against the government in the northeast since 2009.
Oyetakin says the terrorists were making a statement with the Maiduguri bombings.
“They always want to demonstrate that they are still around, even when they have been weakened,” Oyetakin said. “So, they always want to project themselves from the angle of strength.”
More than 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed by terrorists in the northeast, and millions of others remain displaced from their homes.