From the January-February 2015 issue of News & Letters
The terrorist cult Boko Haram has made its name through massacre, kidnap and rape. On Jan. 7, news from the town of Baga in northeast Nigeria, near Lake Chad, indicated that the largest killing yet had taken place, the massacre of over 2,000 people, mainly women, children and older people who couldn’t escape quickly enough.
Thousands of buildings are reported to have been destroyed, and hundreds of people kidnapped. Amnesty International quoted one woman as saying, “Boko Haram kidnapped at least 300 women and held us in a school in Baga. They freed the older women, the mothers, and most of the children after three days, but they are still holding the younger women.”
According to Boko Haram’s twisted version of Islam, women shouldn’t be allowed to attend school. (The group’s name roughly translates as “Western education is forbidden.”) Last April’s kidnapping of 300 Chiboki schoolgirls was also “justified” this way.
The fate of young women who fall into their hands is to be sold in the market or, perhaps, like the 10-year-old girl in Maiduguri, to be used as suicide bombers. In that attack on Jan. 10, over 20 people died.
Many thousands more from the area of northeast Nigeria have become refugees, with 135,000 fleeing across the border into neighboring countries. Over 850,000 people have been internally displaced.
Like IS in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram has declared its own so-called “caliphate.” The group would like to expand its influence across the old borders, and has already attacked troops in Cameroon. They are currently said to occupy an area roughly the size of Belgium.
In previous attacks on towns and villages, Boko Haram has commanded people not to vote in elections. Democracy is also proscribed in their eyes. As with IS, again, they intend to function as an occupying power.
The Nigerian government has done little so far to combat the insurgency, bogged down as it is in official corruption. Now military forces from Cameroon and Chad are reported to be heading toward Nigeria to help fight them, thus regionalizing the conflict.