Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Nigeria. Most attacks take place in northern and north east Nigeria. However, there have been a significant number of attacks elsewhere. Attacks have targeted public places where crowds gather, including places of worship, markets, football viewing centres, displacement camps, transport terminals, 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. Further attacks could be indiscriminate and could target Westerners.

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.

Recent attacks have included:

  • 18 November 2018 - ISWA conducted an attack against a military base in Metele and a significant number of soldiers were killed. The group has undertaken similar raids in 2018 with considerable loss of life
  • 31 October 2018 - Boko Haram conducted a raid on Dalori IDP camp and surrounding communities near Maiduguri where at least 8 people were killed and a number of women were reportedly abducted from the camp. Hundreds of people were displaced as a result
  • 1 March 2018 - Boko Haram, armed with small arms, anti-aircraft weapons and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), conducted a well-organised attack against a military base in Rann, Borno State. Nine members of the Nigerian security forces and 3 UN consultants were killed. Six members of the Nigerian security forces and at least 4 other humanitarian workers were injured, and a further 3 humanitarian workers were abducted
  • 16 February 2018 - 3 suicide bombers detonated their devices at a fish market in Konduga, Borno State. Nineteen civilians were killed and at least 70 others injured.

Methods of attack have included coordinated armed assaults, assassinations, kidnapping, use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide bombings (including by child and female bombers), car bombings and arson.

There have been a number of actual and attempted suicide attacks against IDP (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.

Terrorist kidnaps

The risk of further terrorist kidnaps is high. Since 2018, the security environment in the north east has deteriorated and there is a heightened risk of kidnap. Kidnaps have included humanitarian and private sector workers.

There are reports that Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) are continuing to actively plan to kidnap foreigners. Areas of particular concern include northern and north eastern borders with Niger and Chad as well as more widely across Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Adamawa states in north east Nigeria, and some northern and middle belt states including Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna and Niger. Ansaru, Boko Haram and ISWA have carried out a number of kidnaps in Nigeria. Kidnappings could occur anywhere in areas where terrorist groups have a presence. In the past five years several foreign nationals and humanitarian workers have been kidnapped in the north of Nigeria, including in Adamawa state, Bauchi state, Katsina state, Kano and Kebbi state. Some, including two British nationals and two humanitarian workers, have been killed by their captors.

If you’re working or travelling in areas where there is a Boko Haram or ISWA presence, especially in the north-east of Nigeria, you should be aware of the risk of terrorist kidnapping. 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.

Boko Haram have also taken hostages from neighbouring Cameroon and the Diffa region of Niger, and continue to maintain an intent and capability to conduct kidnaps in Chad.

Terrorist groups operating in Nigeria

Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA)

Boko Haram or Jama’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihad (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. Over the past year, ISWA have launched a series of successful attacks against Nigerian military locations, increased their freedom of movement in Borno state, and executed two humanitarian 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 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.

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 increases the risk of further hostage taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.

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. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.