What is the Boko Haram fighting for?
Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. The group has caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a campaign of bombings and attacks.
While the reclusive Boko Haram has been active in northern Nigeria that borders Cameroon and Chad for years, the group has been on a yearlong campaign of bombings, shootings, and suicide attacks in central and southern Nigeria.
Boko Haram militants claim self-rule for a region they call “Western Sharia”. While some offer limited self-rule, others have harsh interpretations of sharia law, including harsh punishments like beheadings and public lashings. These punishments are in response to what the group perceives as violations of its teachings.
The groups role has escalated with the spread of COVID and dwindling aid.
In 2013, the Nigerian military tried to extinguish the militants. Several terrorist attacks were thwarted, but the militants eventually formed an alliance with Al-Shabaab, another militant organization. Their activities expanded and the two groups became one.
What happens if the alliance breaks up?
The Nigerian Air Force has been shelling terrorist camps controlled by Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia since March. The militant group responded by hitting Nigerian towns and villages with mortars. The Nigerian military argues that the attacks are to suppress Al-Shabaab as it threatens statehood for the region.
Though the situation appears somewhat hopeless, the Nigerian military recently launched a highly effective counter-terrorism offensive. Several suicide attacks against the military have occurred. In one ambush, the Nigerian military was able to destroy several militant camps, multiple rocket launching sites, and several recruiting centers. The offensive comes as the military faces increasing criticism over failures to contain the militants.
Is Boko Haram Defeated?
True to form, the Nigerian military’s retaliatory attacks, suicide attacks, and bombing of civilians also appear to be receiving support from neighboring countries. Cameroon, Chad, and Niger have reportedly joined in attacks against civilians.
To make matters worse, the Nigerian military has allegedly been collaborating with the militants. It has reportedly rounded up hundreds of men from the Muslim minority, including many imams, and is forcing them to convert to Christianity, including honor killings of those who refuse.
Recent reports indicate that the government is preparing a new offensive to crush the militants. In March, a chilling video surfaced of Nigerian soldiers rounding up men in a village, beheading some, and executing others. Reports indicate that the militants have received money, food, and weapons from Nigeria’s state-owned oil company. Oil is key to the Nigerian economy and one of the group’s primary sources of income.
How Long Has Boko Haram Been In Nigeria?
Boko Haram militants have been conducting terror attacks in Nigeria since 2007. They claimed credit for a suicide bombing in 2009 during the presidential election campaign of Abdullahi Yusuf.
Using suicide bombers, the militants killed more than 180 people in the capital city of Abuja.
The group has murdered thousands, bombed schools, hotels, markets, and popular tourist spots, and kidnapped hundreds. The terrorist organization is currently holding approximately 300 girls hostage after a school was attacked on November 20. The girls have been taken captive in the Sambisa Forest, a remote region in northeastern Nigeria, and appear to be among the group’s most prized victims.
The terrorists are demanding the release of child soldiers that the group holds as slaves. Although the terrorists have kidnapped people for years, including several Westerners, none is known to have been executed. For centuries, the terrorist group has committed violence that has been documented in the media.
For example, the group kidnapped approximately 23,000 people, including hundreds of children, in 2013 from the northern Nigerian town of Baga. The terrorists ransacked several villages, releasing many of their captives in January 2014. This led to increased international attention to the problem of terrorism around the world.
The Nigerian government launched an offensive in January 2015 against the terrorist group. In July 2015, the Nigerian army captured the city of Baga, which the militants had previously lost. However, in January 2017, the terrorists launched another assault on the town, killing civilians and the army.
These actions led President Muhammadu Buhari to scale back the offensive, announcing a unilateral halt to military operations in March 2017. However, two months later, on May 22, 2017, Goto told a Nigerian military radio station that the terrorists had recently tried to rescue the girls. There are conflicting reports regarding whether the attempted rescue was actually carried out.
As of September 30, 2018, the terrorist group held 156 women and girls as slaves. Nigeria’s most infamous terrorist released a video claiming responsibility for the kidnappings on November 18.
The kidnapping of the two US citizens left a Twitter hashtag trending “Bring back our schoolgirls” according to Mashable. Similarly, it led to the release of a video that described the exact location of the terrorist group’s kidnap site and said that the two people released were not involved in the attacks that the video referenced.
The kidnappings have caused an international outrage. The two Americans have been missing since 2015, and many people around the world have expressed their support for the parents of the girls.
The video in question, released on December 15, 2018, shows a masked militant repeatedly kicking a captive student on a prison floor, and threatening to kill another one if the Nigerian government does not pay a ransom. That’s thrown the nation into lockdown, leaving many people without work or making many of the basic goods and necessities that many people take for granted. Here’s what you need to know about the organization and its violent campaign.
On June 28, 2013, the Nigerian military launched a massive operation against the Islamists in the northeast of the country. Soon after, little more than two years later, the Nigerian military said that it had driven the militants out of their last major stronghold in the Sambisa Forest.
If you’re not familiar, the Sambisa Forest is home to more than 100 wildlife parks, including the Serengeti Lions Sanctuary, which is home to more than 20,000 lions, the largest population of lions in Africa.
The battle was intense, and the result was devastating — about 2.5 million people were uprooted from their homes, and more than 20,000 fighters were killed.
Boko Haram gained notoriety for what it was doing. As the world watched in terror from across the world, the extremists burned and raided several communities, ransacking villages and carrying out horrific abuses.
The militants seemed to have an unquenchable thirst for hatred and slaughter, as they targeted anyone they perceived as a non-believer or oppressive. One account stood out to me. On Christmas Day 2015, Boko Haram bombed the U.S Embassy in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, killing more than 20 people. At the time of the attack, the attackers said they wanted evidence that the U.S. supported “Western culture” — and if people didn’t convert to Islam, they were going to die.
The extent of the destruction wreaked by these ruthless rebels, dubbed “the army of death,” shocked the world. Nigeria’s military launched an aggressive offensive, said to have killed as many as 10,000 militants. In 2019, a year after the conflict in the northeast had scarred the country, military spokesperson Colonel Sanusi Dauda said the militants “would never surrender” in their bid to bring “sharia to Nigeria.”
However far-fetched that may sound, journalists and humanitarian workers working in the region made claims similar to what Dauda was saying. Human Rights Watch highlighted the growing number of children recruited by the militants and compared it to the children “recruited by child soldier armies” in conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a conflict that has directly claimed the lives of more than 4 million people, mostly civilians.
The initial grounds for the conflict were less to do with religion and more with rampant corruption in Nigerian’s landlocked region.