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.
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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs