On February 19, 2019, Al Jazeera published an article, “Death Toll in Last Week’s Nigeria Attack Doubles to 130,” providing updated information on the attacks in the northwestern state of Kaduna. Though the incident came just hours before presidential and legislative elections, Kaduna’s governor, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, stated that police were still investigating possible motives. Nevertheless, elections were delayed by one week in an area where election violence is not new. In the weeks preceding and following the Nigerian elections, there were assaults across the country, though the one in Kaduna was seen as the worst.
Despite a supposed predilection for violence in the region, Al Jazeera reports that citizens “mostly coexist peacefully.” The apparent targeting of innocent people in what some posit as religiously-charged tensions between the predominantly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, according to unnamed governing officials, is to “wipe out certain communities.” The majority Muslim north is also home to the Fulani ethnic group, and the majority Christian south is home to the Adara ethnic group—two among 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Saleh Momale, Kaduna’s Peace Commissioner, says that these are things society suffers from when there is breakdown in inter-community relations. Resolutions between the north and south have been rare, and with demand for land in Nigeria growing by the day, fear of violence over land use and resources in Nigeria continues.
Many of the victims in the Kaduna attack were burned, which made searching for survivors and identifying victims extremely challenging. Community leader Alhajji Ibrahim says there are still people missing and the death count is still on. Survivors described hundreds of armed men killing and beheading whole families. Some locals believe that the attacks were a retaliation from violence that occurred in October, which killed about 55 people. Along with the article, Al Jazeera posted a video talking with government officials and survivors of the attack. One survivor, Ishaku Sabiyu, managed to escape with only a bullet wound to the arm, but lost his wife, four children, and elderly parents. The husband of Fatuma Daku, another survivor, was beheaded in the village square, leaving Daku on her own to care for her two injured grandsons, 4-year-old Ibraham and 2-and-a-half-year-old Bashir. Survivors reported that the attackers shot anyone who tried to escape. Many survivors were gathered together in the open, suffering shocked from witnessing the killings, beheadings, and torching of houses.
In addition to Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Kaduna attack, in February 2019, the New Humanitarian published an important article, “Countering Militancy in the Sahel.” Drawing on 19-research articles, this article identified root causes of violence in the region, including insights on recruitment, motivations, the role of security forces, demobilization strategies, and the reintegration of former fights—all offering angles and perspectives seldom encountered in the US corporate press.
Although some of the recent atrocities in Nigeria have been covered in establishment media, this particular story has been all but left out of headlines. CNN reported an attack on the motorcade that was carrying Borno state governor Kashim Shettima on February 14, however has yet to cover the Kaduna attack. TIME released an article in early February on an attack by the terrorist organization Boko Haram in which 60 people were murdered in the northeastern town of Rann. Besides Al Jazeera, Reuters is the other publication with an original, though similarly cited, account of the Kaduna attack. Other news sources have reposted the Reuters article, including the popular Business Insider. Coverage on this tragedy has been produced mainly by media sources located outside of the US with virtually no representation in the establishment press.
“Death Toll in Last Week’s Nigeria Attack Doubles to 130,” Al Jazeera, February 19, 2019, www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/death-toll-week-nigeria-attack-doubles-130-190219193655675.html.
“Countering Militancy in the Sahel,” The New Humanitarian, February 26, 2019, https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/in-depth/countering-militancy-sahel.
Student Researchers: Alexander Baptiste, Alyssa Lash, Caroline Lussier, and Erica Rindels (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)