The US diplomatic mission in Nigeria released a security message today warning that ‘groups associated with terrorist activity might be planning attacks against hotels in Lagos frequented by international visitors, including those located on waterfronts, during the Eid Al-Fitr holidays’.
The Eid Al-Fitr holiday starts tonight and runs until tomorrow. The wording of the warning suggests that the US has specific threat information. The warning mentions waterfront hotels in Lagos as being a potential target. Although some upmarket hotels in the city have improved security measures at their front entrances over the past year or so, there are vulnerabilities at the back by the water. It is possible to approach some hotels by boat, and enter without having to pass any security checks.
The US message does not specify which group or groups might be behind the threat. In our analysis, Boko Haram is the most likely group that would seek to mount an attack in Lagos, and have the capability to do so. However, that group has been struggling during the past year. It has not mounted a major attack outside the Lake Chad region, mostly in northeastern Nigeria, since November 2015. And it has lost a considerable amount of territory and many fighters there while trying to resist a regional military offensive. This seems to have affected Boko Haram’s ability to sustain offensive operations elsewhere in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, for Islamic State (IS) and its affiliated groups, mounting a large-scale attack away from the group’s main area of operations in Syria, Iraq and Libya has been a common tactic when they have been on the backfoot. And it currently appears that IS and its affiliates are on some form of offensive, having mounted large-scale or coordinated attacks in Turkey, Iraq, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia during the past week. The extent of Boko Haram’s ties with IS in Iraq and Syria is unclear though – we have not seen any clear evidence to suggest that there are any operational ties at all.
Another group that we assess would probably have some intent and capability to mount an attack in Lagos is Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). That group and its affiliates has been trying to reassert its profile by carrying out attacks across a wider area of the Sahel and West Africa than previously, when it mainly operated in Mali and southern Algeria. In its high-profile operations, it has particularly targeted relatively upmarket hotels. This was the case in an attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in January, and in Grand Bassam, Cote d’Ivoire, in March.
Image: Lagos Island and Lagos Harbour; Creative Commons, Benji Robertson
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