These are issued from time to time but this one is unusual in its specificity:
Following the recent Boko Haram, aka Nigerian Taliban, attacks in Borno and Yobe State, the U.S. Embassy has received information that Boko Haram may plan to attack several locations and hotels in Abuja, Nigeria, during the Sallah holiday. Potential targets may include the Nicon Luxury, the Sheraton Hotel, and the Transcorp Hilton Hotel.
All U.S. Government personnel have been instructed to avoid these locations, and previously scheduled events have been cancelled. American citizens should expect additional police and military checkpoints, additional security, and possible road blocks in Abuja for the foreseeable future.
The U.S. government has no additional information regarding the timing of the possible attacks.
It sounds like there’s significant worry, if not credible intelligence, of a Mumbai-style attack. That concern would be appropriate given the recent tactics employed by Boko Haram. But it remains to be seen if Boko Haram can/will sustain these larger Damaturu-scale attacks at a rapid pace. According to one resident quoted in an AllAfrica.com report over 300 Boko Haram members participated in this weekend’s attack:
“He said when he called his wife, she told him that they were safe but that he should not enter Damaturu because they were told that the Boko Haram members were more than 300 in number and were fully armed.”
I suspect that number is wildly inflated but the group obviously still has the ability to initiate more large scale attacks. Meanwhile, at least one Nigerian official is saying that the threat is overblown:
“General Owoeye Andrew Azazi, the National Security Adviser has accused the United States Embassy in Nigeria of spreading unnecessary panic over its claims that the Boko Haram fundamentalist sect may launch attacks on three prominent hotels in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
…But Azazi told a news agency that the alert of possibility of attack on the hotels is not a new one.
“The (U.S. statement) is eliciting unhealthy public anxiety and generating avoidable tension,” said the NSA.”
Nigeria wouldn’t be the first country to downplay threats to tourism centers. They aren’t very good for business. So is the United States being overly cautious? That is hard to say without access to the intelligence that is presumably driving this warning but given recent events the fear is hardly irrational.
Recommended on Twitter: @purefoyCNN. Christian Purefoy is a CNN West Africa Correspondent.