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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid