News / Africa

Civilians Join Fight Against Nigeria's Boko Haram

Nigerian soldiers ride on an armored personnel carrier in an area of Nigeria where an Islamic insurgency is raging, in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Aug. 8, 2013.
Nigerian soldiers ride on an armored personnel carrier in an area of Nigeria where an Islamic insurgency is raging, in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Aug. 8, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Anne Look
— In Nigeria's northeastern Borno state, the birthplace of Boko Haram, hundreds of young men have formed units of a civilian vigilante group that now is actively working to hunt down militants alongside the military. In doing so, the vigilantes have themselves become targets.

At least 55 members of a civilian vigilante group in Borno State have been slaughtered by presumed Boko Haram militants in a series of reprisal attacks over the last month.

The most recent attack took place Friday outside the town of Monguno. Suspected Boko Haram militants dressed in army uniforms ambushed and killed at least 24 of the civilian vigilantes, who were heading out on a mission.  

The vigilante group is called the Civilian JTF. It is a machete- and stick-wielding freelance version of the military JTF - or Joint Task Force - that has struggled to put down the radical Islamist insurgency that has been raging in northern Nigeria since 2009.

Baba Garba Chajo helped form the Civilian JTF this June. He said their job is help the military, and that includes "hunting down and arresting" militants.

"In the past we were at the receiving end of the Boko Haram, but now we are the ones sending them on the run. We no longer fear Boko Haram because we have conquered our fears. And we have all sworn by the holy Quran to justly pursue our duties without recourse to worldly gains," said Chajo.

That's not to say there haven't been problems. He said they had to "get soldiers to shoot dead" several members of the vigilante group who were looting and attacking people in one village, something that he said is "worse than Boko Haram."  

The 35-year-old is a mechanic by trade, but he now spends his day and evenings driving the streets of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, searching for Boko Haram. He pays for the gas himself and said he is ready for "sacrifice."  

"We are not scared of death, because you only die once," he said. "If we just fold our arms and stand by and watch in fear, the Boko Haram would eventually come out to kill us anyways. So why do we have to entertain fear?"

Many locals are fed up with the insurgency and applaud the efforts of the Civilian JTF.  But analysts say the vigilantes mark a worrying devolution of the crisis.

The military encourages the Civilian JTF and provides them with protection details for their missions, but it has stopped short of giving them guns. The thinking is that locals know the communities and are better able to spot and track down militants.  

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa said the Civilian JTF has been key to the ongoing three-month-long offensive that he said is helping to turn the tide against Boko Haram, despite continued militant attacks against civilians.

"We are being supported by vigilante groups so the whole thing is becoming too tight for terrorists. They are not happy. They don't even have liberty to move freely as they used to do," said Musa.

Others aren't so sure, though. The military has restricted access to the frontline and cell phone communications have been cut in much of the northeast. It's hard to independently measure progress on the ground.

In addition, there are concerns that backing the youth vigilante group will just open another Pandora's box.

Shehu Sani, head of the Kaduna-based Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, said the military is "abdicating its responsibility" to these untrained and outgunned youth groups. "It is also clear that these vigilante groups are engaged in gross human rights violations by raiding, attacking and arresting people on suspicion of being members of the Boko Haram group. These people, they will someday grow to be another monster that the Nigerian state has to confront."

Sani said backing these youth militias only escalates the conflict, which already has killed more than 3,000 people, and has sown fear across northeast Nigeria.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: igbi
September 02, 2013 6:31 PM
I advice you to stop quoting shehu sani, he is a well known boko haram sympathizer. All he does is defend boko haram and accuse any body who is fighting against boko haram.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid