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Nigerian Police Kill 30 Civilians in Shooting Spree

If you want to learn how countries fail, studying Nigeria today wouldn’t be a waste of time. The BBC reports on a grisly, sad story:

Nigerian troops have opened fire and burned buildings in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, reportedly killing 30 civilians.

The shootings came after a bomb blast targeting the army had injured two soldiers. […]

Maiduguri has been under siege from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which wants Sharia law in Nigeria. […]

Eyewitnesses in Maiduguri said soldiers began to indiscriminately open fire on residents and set fire to homes and businesses.

The Nigerian authorities had a different story:

But army spokesman Lt Col Sagir Musa told the BBC that soldiers had not shot any civilians. […]

On Sunday, the army said it killed 30 Boko Haram members in another north-eastern city, Damaturu.

It’s understandable that Nigerian soldiers in Maiduguri, a city hit hard by Boko Haram, would be angry and impatient. Poorly trained, poorly paid agents of a corrupt and largely ineffective government, they are engaged in a frustrating struggle against a mostly invisible but often deadly foe. Its likely that civilians, themselves scared by Boko Haram, are less forthcoming with information than the soldiers would like.

Incidents like this one show graphically how fragile and vulnerable Nigeria’s governing institutions are, and how close to the surface terrifying violence is at any given moment.

The global fight against fanaticism, ignorance, and hate inescapably requires that we work closely with Nigeria and its neighbors to quell the threat of Boko Haram militants, but it also requires us to address the inequalities and injustices that drive their rebellion against the Nigerian state. Our ability to solve these problems, however, is limited, and we can’t count on the Nigerian state and elites for much help. To (mis)quote Shakespeare, by the pricking of our thumbs, something ugly this way comes.

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