In the minutes following midnight (local time) on Friday, February 15, unidentified gunmen killed 66 people in the villages of Ruga Bahago, Ruga Daku, Ruga Ori, Ruga Haruna, Ruga Yukka Abubakar, Ruga Duni Kadiri, Ruga Shewuka, and Ruga Shuaibu Yau in Kajuru local government area (Kaduna state). Authorities subsequently deployed security forces in and around the affected areas and have made initial arrests.
Security operations are ongoing in the areas. Additional or reciprocal attacks, as well as related demonstrations and unrest, cannot be ruled out.
The motivation of the gunmen has yet to be identified, although political violence across Nigeria has increased markedly in the days before the February 16 election and Kaduna frequently experiences deadly intercommunal clashes. Violent demonstrations and clashes between supporters of rival political parties are possible, as witnessed in previous elections. Furthermore, Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) militants have threatened to disrupt the elections by conducting attacks on Nigerian security forces and infrastructure, as well as public gathering places such as markets, hotels, and malls.
Presidential elections in Nigeria have a detailed record of unrest, fraud allegations, and backroom dealings. In 2015, Boko Haram attacks on voting centers killed 41 people; in 2011, bomb attacks before the elections and deadly post-election election clashes left over 1000 people dead. Moreover, the lack of voter cards and technical problems with biometric card readers have hindered previous election processes.
Intercommunal clashes are also common in Nigeria, especially between nomadic and settled communities. These kinds of clashes have been known to break out in the central Middle Belt region (e.g. in Plateau, Bauchi, Benue, Kaduna, and Nassawara states) as well as in the south, where casualties are regularly reported. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has reported that murder rates linked to ethnic violence are higher in Nigeria than those related to terrorism, also a major security concern in the country.
Individuals in Nigeria are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, remain vigilant, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
The security environment in Nigeria remains complex. Although travel is permissible in some areas, other areas should be considered strictly off limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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