Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has switched tack from saying his government is winning the war against the Islamist group Boko Haram to describing it as an expanding al-Qaeda-backed threat to Africa.
Labaran Manu shut his grocery shop and fled the northeastern Nigerian town of Mallam Fatori with his two wives and five children after President Goodluck Jonathan sent troops last month to drive Islamist militants from the area.
A mounting campaign of violence in northern Nigeria by Islamic militants inspired by Afghanistan’s Taliban movement is deepening religious tensions in Africa’s top oil producer before elections in April.
The Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram has used children as young as 12 as fighters and abducted and raped women, while the government has failed to account for hundreds of detained men and boys, Human Rights Watch said.
Nigerian troops wield AK-47s at the Hilton Hotel in the capital of Abuja, while security guards scan for car bombs at entry checkpoints, snarling traffic. Down the road, police block access to the Holy Trinity Catholic church on Sundays as worshippers congregate.
Nigeria has evidence that an insurgency in the country is being influenced by external forces, Vice President Namadi Sambo said, as the army announced a senior militant aide was found dead at the border with Niger.