November 8, 2016: Massacre in northern Nigeria

At least 30 gold miners were killed in northern Nigeria in November 2016, quite possibly by Boko Haram terrorists.

At least 30 gold miners were killed in northern Nigeria in November 2016, quite possibly by Boko Haram terrorists.

BAUCHI, NIGERIA – Even if we do not have all the facts in hand, and may never get them, we can extrapolate from past terrorist activity to other acts of violence.

Terrorism is both a crystal clear and a nebulous topic. Crystal clear in that many groups are very open about what they stand for and what they are trying to achieve. Some go to great lengths to crow about their actions, hoping both to seem more important than they really are and to perhaps strike fear in the rest of us. And to recruit others.

On the other hand, sometimes significant acts of extreme violence take place and either no group takes responsibility or there are other factors (or factions) at play. After all, terrorists do not hold a monopoly on violence.

Take many parts of Nigeria for instance. That nation is beset by several violent episodes far too often, and there are many sets of actors involved. One of the better known is that between hunters (from the Dogon ethnic group) and herdsmen (who are Fulani), although their quarrels are not limited to Nigeria: Mali also has issues with these two. One side pisses off the other with its actions which invites a tit-for-tat response, and so on.

And yet, the terrorist group most would associate with Nigeria over the past decade or so is a group called Boko Haram. They have been behind countless attacks in which tens of thousands have been killed and wounded and hundreds of thousands displaced. They are so active that even when there is some debate over whether they were responsible for a particular incident, they need to be considered.

On this day in 2016 upwards of 30 gold miners were killed by unknown gunmen in a remote part of Zamfara State in northern Nigeria. A police spokesperson stated that the gunmen stole nothing and added that the motive for the attack was unclear.

So, was this Boko Haram?

Maybe, but we can use a similar attack two years previously may give us some clues. That terrorist group was definitely behind an attack in Bauchi in which ten people were killed and 14 injured in an explosion at a brothel (a target which would appeal to the ‘religiously pure’ terrorist organisation).

In other words, Boko Haram has a record in that part of Nigeria and could very well have been the killers of the gold miners. Then again, this could also have been an act of violence tied to another grievance or issue. It remains unclear.

I suppose if you are the victim of such a slaughter do you care who is your assailant? Does it really matter?

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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