News / Africa

    VOA EXCLUSIVE: Boko Haram's Terror Targets Many, Spares Few

    During its five-year insurgency, the Islamist group Boko Haram has driven thousands of people from their homes, including these women and children at a refugee camp in northeastern Nigeria
    During its five-year insurgency, the Islamist group Boko Haram has driven thousands of people from their homes, including these women and children at a refugee camp in northeastern Nigeria
    Ibrahim AhmedMike Eckel
    Ijabula Seltimari can’t figure out how he managed to survive being shot by Boko Haram militants.

    Twice. In the head. At point blank range.
     
    His body, he said, bounced as the bullets hit.
     
    "I tried getting up, but I fell. I tried again, but I fell again. So I lay on the ground and that was when people from the neighborhood arrived," Seltimari told VOA in an interview. "I am lucky that I am still alive."
     
    Seltimari, a 29-year-old married father of three who makes a living loading and unloading cargo from delivery trucks, doesn’t know why he was targeted.
     
    Regardless, though, his survival in the attack in February was unusual for those who have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram.
     
    During a five-year insurgency, thousands of people have been killed by the extremist Islamist group battling what it says are pernicious Western influences in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.

    Tactics escalate
     
    Over the past year, as the group’s tactics have escalated from localized violence to widespread mayhem that threatens stability across West Africa, an estimated 250,000 Nigerians have been driven from their homes in three northeastern states.

    This year, Boko Haram’s campaign has turned decidedly more deadly, with more than 2,000 killed so far.
     
    In April, the group grabbed the world’s attention when it abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from a northeastern Nigerian village.
     
    The kidnapping not only highlighted the confused, sometimes incoherent response of President Goodluck Jonathan’s government in confronting the problem, but it also  focused attention on the growing problem of terror groups in West Africa—many espousing Islamist ideals or anti-governments goals, some having ties to al-Qaida.
     
    "Boko Haram can still punch above its weight in Nigeria with attacks that have far-reaching ripple effects on political stability," analyst Jacob Zenn wrote in an article published last month by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy.
     
    With the United States and other countries offering military assistance and other help to find the schoolgirls, concern is mounting both in Nigeria and around the world about whether Jonathan’s government is up to the challenge.
     
    Last week, gunmen believed to be Boko Haram attacked four villages in the Gwoza area of Borno state, killing hundreds.

    Witnesses told VOA that the militants, who came dressed as soldiers, opened fire on residents and burned down homes and businesses during the raids.

    Mike Omeri, director general of Nigeria’s National Orientation Agency, defended the overall government response, which included declaring a state of emergency in Borno last year.
     
    "[The] government has risen to the challenge of the moment by deploying and seeking help," Omeri said. "If government was not doing anything at all, it wouldn’t have sought for help internationally, it wouldn’t have mobilized its own international assets towards providing security and rescuing the girls."

    Villages terrorized

    Villages and towns around Borno state -- which shares borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad -- have been terrorized by the attacks.

     
    x
    That includes Seltimari’s village, Izghe, a mixed ethnic and religious town located south of the state capital Maiduguri, where most residents eke out a meager living by farming and trading goods.
     
    On the night of Feb. 14, Seltimari was sleeping in a room with his wife and three children in a compound that he shares with various brothers, sisters and other relatives.

    At around 9 p.m., four men entered the compound and banged on his door. He lay quietly until one of the attackers called out, "Today is your last day. If you don’t open the door, we are going to use a gun to open it."
     
    The men, Seltimari said, carried "sophisticated" weapons, apparently Kalashnikov rifles, and wore camouflage army uniforms, but had no beards or head coverings. They asked him first for the registration documents to his car.
     
    After replying that he didn’t have the papers, they demanded the keys to his motorcycle, then went outside and set fire to his car.
     
    Demands increase

    Then they demanded he gather his belongings and extra clothing.

    When Seltimari said he didn’t have any, one of the men hit him with the butt of the gun, and again told him they planned to kill him, ordering him outside into the compound’s courtyard, along with his wife and children.
     
    By this time, he realized that the gunmen had killed other relatives: his half-brother, his half-brother’s wife and his half-brother’s mother. He never learned why.
     
    After a short disagreement about whether to let Seltimari go, the attackers ordered him to strip naked and lay down on the dirt ground on his back and beg them not to shoot him.
     
    Then, he said, "I was ordered not to look up, I should have my face looking on the ground. So I put my head on the ground, and that was when they shot me twice."
     
    He lost consciousness.
     
    The men left soon after, taking Seltimari’s motorcycle. His relatives rushed him to a local hospital. He was transferred to the state capital, where he underwent emergency surgery.
     
    In all, four people were killed in the attack, including another neighbor. 
     
    Seltimari, who earns a living collecting fares for goods and loading them onto cargo and delivery trucks, said he had no idea why he was targeted; he is Christian and the neighbor who was killed is Muslim.
     
    Seltimari now lives in a refugee camp in Bole, a village in neighboring Adamawa state.
     
    About 120 other people—mainly women and children—also live in the camp, a makeshift operation that gets some funding from the state emergency management agency.
     
    "The right side of my body is paralyzed, I can’t feel it. I thank God. We don’t have anything, but we can find something to eat. What we need right now is medicine, so that we can feel better," he said.
     
    VOA's Mike Eckel reported from Washington and Ibrahim Ahemd from Nigeria. Reporter Peter Clottey contributed material from Abuja, Nigeria.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
    July 01, 2014 5:31 PM
    We all come on VOA to express our opinion and belief. If anyone don't like what I write, do yourself a favour please, don't read it. Simple. I don't read other people stuff, becuz I don't believed in what you write. You or anyone doesn't have to come on VOA to attack me, if you need a forum, let us contact VOA for that. But it am not interesting in fighting on the media. Your opinion is yours and my is mine. Thanks everyone who don't what I write. Your all have a nice day.

    by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
    June 30, 2014 7:29 PM
    1worldnow, Please I don't know you, I don't have time to fight you for your precision, or you fighting me for mine, these are kids stuff. everyone has the right to express how they feel. I am not getting into that fight, you and Meanbill fight. I am too grown and mature for this.God Bless you, have a nice one.

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    June 29, 2014 7:28 AM
    Unfortunately, for people like Leroy Padmore, commentators are faced with so much negativity and no real ideas to the situation that is being discussed. Yes, Leroy, there are plenty of Americans who just can't stand America. Doesn't make much sense to me either. Even as much as I totally and utterly despise Obama, he is still my president, and I will gladly defend him and people like Meanbill. People like Meanbill will never leave the US because this is the best place to live, but he may just be miserable and wallowing in his own hate and discontent. I have asked him repeatedly to chill out and let's have a genuine conversation, but he has insisted that he will not do that. Meanbill, do you have any ideas other than hate and discontent for the us? People in Nigeria are suffering. Those precious little girls are probably having the most horrible unspeakable things being done to them. Do you care about that? Or is anti-Americanism the only thoughts you care to share?

    Leroy, Goodluck Jonathan has proven to be Badluck Jonathan to a nation that needs leadership. The people need a leader, not diplomacy, not politics, not religion! These people want to live, they want to work, they want to have a family, they just want to live peacefully. Nigeria's little girls have been abducted and the whole world should be on top of this! Goodluck has adamantly proven that his incompetence will not save those poor babies. We, as Americans, always envision our society and the hero, the US Calvary riding on horses carrying the American flag to save the helpless in the last moments of dispair! But our nation is being led by Obama who likes to talk, and talk, and blame Republicans, smile for the cameras, but in the meantime people are suffering...EVERYWHERE! The best we can hope for in this forum, is that more people will read the concerns of citizens from around the world. We need ideas Meanbill, not rhetoric and hate speeches. You have a profound view of things, and profound minds have produced some of the best ideas in human history. Can you come up with a profound idea for us to think about? Our leaders are failing us, everywhere, in every nation, people are suffering, little girls are being taken, what more can we say to you to see past your hatred and join us to hopefully find some kind of solution? The citizens of the world should be bonding together, hate and rhetoric is the first step to tear us apart.

    by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
    June 11, 2014 7:16 PM
    Meanbill, you and I are not getting into it. The world knows that the U.S is the world superpower. If you are not secured in our country, why are you here? if you hate the U.S, go back to your country. and I am going to leave it just like that. I don't care what you say no more.
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    June 30, 2014 4:51 AM
    I ask him every time.

    by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
    June 11, 2014 3:03 AM
    The Nigerian Military has shown their incapacity by not been able to crush Boko Haram. They have proven to the world their weaknesses. The Nigerian Military are well trained and have better equipment then that of Boko Haram. Boko Haram is just a rebel group who decided to terrorized Borno State and other parts of the region. And they have been doing this for the last five years now. Thousand of people has died in the hands of Boko Haram, and there increase violence daily. And this is a clear indication that the Gooddluck Jonathan administration is weak. His government needs to be replaced. One thing the Goodluck administration needs to do is to deploy sixty thousand troop in the whole region, create a buffer zone and a saved haven for their citizen to go and be save. Then they should start wiping the all area and clean up that whole mess. They should not give Boko Haram the chance to recuperate.They need to paralyzed Boko Haram completely beyond repair.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 11, 2014 12:38 PM
    IN REBUTTAL? -- The US with the greatest military force in the history of the world, couldn't defeat a few thousand guys in Afghanistan, riding donkeys, wearing nightshirts, gym shoes and sandals, and they now are retreating back home....

    IN ALL HONESTY? -- IF the US with the greatest military force in the history of the world couldn't defeat the same type inferior forces as Boko Haram, why expect the Nigerian military do better? -- (THINK about it?)....

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