U.S Says Elections A Factor In Increased Boko Haram Attacks In Nigeria
(Reuters) – Nigeria's election next month is a factor behind the sharp
increase in attacks by Boko Haram Islamist militants in the north of the
country, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday.
Spokeswoman Marie Harf said, however, that the Feb. 14 presidential
election should go forward despite the violence, which the United Nations
and human rights groups say has forced about 20,000 Nigerians to flee to
neighboring countries in recent weeks.
“There has been a sharp escalation in the number of reported casualties,”
Harf told a daily briefing. “We do believe the election is a factor.”
Harf said Boko Haram previously used events such as elections to stir up
tensions. The election is expected to be a close contest between President
Goodluck Jonathan and his leading challenger Muhammadu Buhari.
“Boko Haram has tended to, particularly around something like an election,
use political issues or sensitivities to try to enflame tensions,” she
said. “We have seen that as one of their tactics and that is why it is so
important to move forward with the election, because we believe it's
Boko Haram's insurgency began in 2009, but the number and scale of the
attacks has risen sharply since last year after the government imposed
emergency rule in three worst-hit states in northern Nigeria.
Amnesty International has said Boko Haram may have killed some 2,000
people around Jan. 3 in Baga in northern Nigeria. Harf said it was hard to
independently verify that figure.
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