Terrorism – Nigeria travel advice

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Nigeria. Attacks could be indiscriminate and could affect western interests, as well as places visited by tourists.

Most attacks are conducted by Boko Haram or Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) and occur in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States in the North East. There have also been significant attacks in other states, including in Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Bauchi and Taraba States. Between May and July 2022 Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) have conducted a number of attacks in Kogi, Niger, and in the Federal Capital Territory. Further attacks are likely. Public places where crowds gather have been targeted, including places of worship, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, football viewing centres, displacement camps, transport terminals (including train networks), government buildings, security and educational institutions (schools, further education colleges and universities are all regular targets), and international organisations. Attacks have taken place around religious and public holidays in public or crowded places, including places of worship as well as during election periods.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Humanitarian staff and assets have been targeted during attacks in the North East, including in garrison towns and on roads. Humanitarian sites have also been targeted. There is a continued threat from extremist groups operating in the region. The al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Jamaat al Ansar al Muslimeen fi Bilad al Sudan, better known as Ansaru, has previously carried out attacks and kidnappings, including that of westerners, across northern Nigeria. The most recent attack was in mid-January 2020 when Ansaru claimed to have killed at least six people, kidnapped dozens, and destroyed several vehicles during an ambush along the Kaduna-Zaira highway in Kaduna State. Details remain unclear.

You should avoid places where there are political or other large public gatherings. Be vigilant, remain alert and pay attention to your surroundings at all times. You should follow local news reports and be alert to developments particularly around religious and public holidays. A heavy security presence often indicates areas of particularly high risk. You should avoid affected areas in the immediate aftermath of an attack. You should avoid regular patterns of travel or movement, and aim to only travel during daylight hours.

Recent attacks have included:

  • On 5 July 2022 the Kuje Prison in The Federal Capital Territory was bombed and attacked by gunmen and an unknown number of prisoners have escaped. Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) has claimed responsibility for the attack.

  • Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) has claimed responsibility for killings of policemen in Suleja, Niger State, on 12 May and 4 July 2022. Suleja is less than 20 kilometres away from the Federal Capital Territory.
  • Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) has claimed responsibility for an IED attack on a bar in Kabba, Kogi State, on 29 May 2022.
  • In April 2022, Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) claimed two improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Iware and Jalingo, Taraba State, and in May 2022 claimed an attack against a military facility in Jalingo.
  • On 23 December 2021, a number of long range rockets were fired into Maiduguri city; some were reported to have landed close to Maiduguri Airport. Initial reports indicate there were a number of civilian casualties
  • On 4 December 2021, Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) fired four rockets into Maiduguri city. One civilian was killed. Some of the rockets landed within 2.4km of Maiduguri airport
  • 28 November 2020 – at least 70 civilians were killed and others wounded and abducted in Jere Local Government Area, Borno State, by insurgents
  • 22 July 2020 – 5 aid workers, including staff from Action Against Hunger, the International Rescue Committee, ACTED and the REACH initiative and the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, were executed by ISWA
  • 02 July 2020 – Shots were fired at an UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flight in Damasak Borno State.
  • 13 June 2020 – Insurgents attacked Monguno town, killing at least 38 civilians, and targeting the humanitarian hub located in the town
  • 9 June 2020 – Insurgents are reported to have killed around 81 civilians in Felo village, Gubio LGA

Methods of attack have included coordinated armed assaults, rocket attacks, assassinations, kidnapping, use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), bombings (including by child and female bombers), car bombings and arson. Use of military uniforms and vehicles have been used as a tactic to get close to the intended target.

Terrorist groups construct illegal vehicle checkpoints on major supply and commercial routes in Northern Nigeria and attack vehicles travelling on major roads into Maiduguri, Borno State, including the A3 Maiduguri-Damaturu road. Attacks have directly targeted civilians, security forces and aid workers.

There have been a number of actual and attempted attacks against internally displaced persons, camps, markets, places of worship, security force installations, government and educational facilities in Borno and Adamawa. There has also been an increase in suicide attacks in central Maiduguri, Borno State since October 2016.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Terrorist kidnaps

Terrorist groups, including Boko Haram and ISWA, are highly likely to carry out kidnaps in Nigeria. Kidnappings could occur anywhere. Areas of particular concern include Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States in North East Nigeria and some northern and middle belt states including Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Taraba and Niger.

Ansaru, Boko Haram and ISWA have carried out a number of kidnaps in Nigeria. Several foreign nationals and humanitarian workers have been kidnapped in the north of Nigeria, including in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Katsina, Kano and Kebbi. Some, including two British nationals, have been killed by their captors. There may be an increased risk of kidnap, particularly to NGO workers, in Gwoza and Bama local government areas, Borno State.

British nationals are viewed as legitimate targets, including those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release. You should exercise vigilance when travelling, when in crowded public places, including religious gatherings and insecure spaces like places of worship, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, transport hubs and camps for displaced people. You should avoid regular patterns of travel or movement, and aim to travel only during daylight hours.

In addition to Nigeria, Boko Haram have conducted kidnappings in neighbouring Cameroon and the Diffa region of Niger, and they and ISWA continue to maintain an intent and capability to conduct kidnaps in Chad.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Terrorist groups operating in Nigeria

Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA)

Boko Haram or JASDJ is an Islamist terrorist group operating in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The group aspire to establish a Sharia State in Nigeria and West Africa, de-stabilise the Nigerian government and remove western influence from the country.

The group was formerly linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). On 12 March 2015, Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) accepted a pledge of allegiance by Boko Haram. In August 2016, the group split into 2 factions: Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and JASDJ or Boko Haram.

ISWA is affiliated with ISIS core in Iraq and Syria and has expressed an intention to target Nigerian government, Christian and western interests. ISWA have launched a series of successful attacks against Nigerian military locations, increased their freedom of movement across Borno and Yobe states, and taken multiple hostages.

Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (Vanguard for the protection of Muslims in Black Africa) (Ansaru)

Ansaru is an Islamist terrorist organisation based in northern Nigeria, and is proscribed by the UK. It emerged in 2012 and is motivated by an anti-Nigerian Government and anti-Western agenda.

Ansaru is broadly aligned with Al Qaeda. Since 2012, the group has kidnapped at least 8 hostages, mainly Europeans. They are believed to have killed a number of hostages, including 2 British nationals.

The terrorist threat in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin

There is a very high threat of kidnapping by terrorist groups operating in the Sahel region. A number of western nationals including tourists, NGO workers and diplomats have been kidnapped in the Sahel over the last ten years, and several are still being held. Some, including several British nationals, have been killed by their captors. Those engaged in humanitarian aid work, journalism, government or business sectors are viewed as legitimate targets. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.

There are a number of terrorist groups active in the region. These include Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), Islamic State Greater Sahara (ISGS), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al Murabitoun, Ansar Dine and Boko Haram. These groups are capable of carrying out attacks and kidnaps over long distances. Kidnapping for ransom is the primary source of finance for Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM). Criminal gangs also carry out kidnapping for terrorist groups in return for financial rewards.

Read more about the threat from terrorism in the Sahel region.

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