The Infamous Nigerian Terror Group — Part II
On April 14th, this year, local officials and people told army men about armed men who had cruised into their village (Chibok) on motorbikes and cars, pledging to kidnap girls. The military didn’t send any troops because it is reported that, ‘they feared of engaging with the often better-equipped armed groups.’ We know what happened next in the Chibok village and in the Government girls’ boarding school. In March, this year, Boko Haram launched an attack in the city of Maidaguri, freeing the detainees held in a barracks (mostly political prisoners). A witness later told to Amnesty about what happened to the detainees. They were taken to a place behind the University of Maiduguri and the soldiers opened fire, killing all 56 detainees. Media later expressed skepticism over the alleged fact that Boko Haram had attacked the facility at all. These episodes are just few examples out of the gruesome atrocities conducted by Nigerian security forces. The indiscriminate arrests and killing of civilians by the security forces have given reason enough for Boko Haram to cultivate new recruits.
The group called as ‘Nigerian Taliban’, in 2003, attracted media attention, since many of the group’s members were the sons of wealthy and influential people in Nigeria’s northern establishment. After the siege of mosque, few remaining survivors of the group returned to Maiduguri city and started the process of establishing an own mosque for the group. In the next few years, the group was left alone by the authorities and army, and slowly expanded into other states of Nigeria. It was also during this period it gained the named ‘Boko Haram’ (roughly translates as ‘Western education is forbidden’).
Like many Islamic radical group, the leader Mohammad Yusuf blamed the ills faced by Nigerians on Western education. In 2007, Sheikh Jaffar Mahmoud Adam, a popular and prominent cleric was assassinated when he was praying at the mosque. It was widely acknowledged that the killing was carried out on the orders of Mohammad Yusuf because Sheikh Jaffar criticized Boko Haram for its hard ideologies. The assassination was just the start of bloodier events.
A law was enforced in Borno state, which enforced a tightening restriction on motorcycle helmets. The already mounting violence between communities and the rampant police corruption along with this restriction led to a fierce conflict in July 2009. A group of Boko Haram members, riding in motorcycles, who all were returning from the funeral of fellow member, was stopped by traffic officers regarding the absence of helmets. It lead to an argument, later to violence. Shots were fired on the group members. They retaliated by injuring and killing several police officers. It didn’t stop there. Boko Haram attacked police stations in Borno, killing more police men. Sermons were released by the group’s leaders threatening the state and police with violence. Army was called after Boko Haram took the control of Borno state. The army killed and captured many of the radicals, including Yusuf.
The members were handed over to the police, who although denied accusations, killed scores of Boko Haram members. Mohammad Yusuf was killed in police custody and once again the few survivors of the group scattered, waiting for the right time to regroup. In mid-2010, Boko Haram returned to Maiduguri and commenced its campaign of assassinations. Numerous hit-and-run attacks on police were conducted. On the Christmas Eve, six bombs detonated near churches and markets, killing scores of civilians, including Muslims.
The group also started operating in cell-like fashion and maintained near invisibility. Their structure became complex. In 2011, they robbed banks and cash-in transit convoys, bombed police headquarters. They also planted weekly bombs in churches or in public places. In 2012, they burned a dozen of schools and newspaper offices in Maidaguri. To this day, hundreds of innocent people are getting killed by suicidal car bombs.
The kidnapping of school girls was a tactical move by Boko Haram, especially to instill fear and to demonstrate that the Nigerian government can no longer protect its people. Nigerian government is still relying on guns and armored personnel carriers rather than intelligence-gathering and negotiation. Despite billions of dollars, allocated to defense, the insurgents are better equipped than army. This year alone, according to central bank governor of Nigeria, $20 billion are missing from the treasury. Even with all the oil money flowing into the country, it still struggles due to high level of corruption. Boko Haram’s of the world have eventually spawned due to this. The religious tension, the poverty and armed struggles have all evolved due to the rampant corruption. What could you expect from a government that hasn’t diversified its economy other than exporting oil? And what could you expect from such government’s corporate masters? May be Boko Haram isn’t the only terror group in Nigeria.