News / Africa

Nigeria's Boko Haram Remains Persistent, Mysterious Threat

Nigeria's Boko Haram Remains Persistent, Mysterious Threati
November 14, 2013 10:19 PM
The United States has formally designated Nigerian militant sect Boko Haram and a splinter group, Ansaru, as foreign terrorist organizations. VOA's Anne Look has this report on what we know about Boko Haram.
Anne Look
The United States has formally designated the Nigerian militant sect, Boko Haram, and a splinter group, Ansaru, as foreign terrorist organizations. 

Boko Haram's propaganda videos have been some of the public's only windows into the shadowy militant sect. 

Sect leader Abubakar Shekau appears in them routinely. He boasts about attacks and threatens enemies ranging from the Nigerian government to Christians to the United States.

A man in recent videos who experts say appears to be Shekau taunts the Nigerian military, which has declared him dead twice.

In a video distributed on DVD to journalists in Maiduguri in early October, the sect shows off large stocks of weapons it says it seized from Nigerian soldiers.  Shekau says "a big war" is coming.  He says "This war is not about the Nigerian government; it is a war to uplift Islam and get all non-Muslims to repent their ways and embrace Islam.  This war is a task that will bring peace, tranquility, equality and fairness in Nigeria."

A charismatic imam named Mohammed Yusuf founded Boko Haram in the northeast in 2002.

People nicknamed the sect Boko Haram after Yusuf's preaching.  It means "Western education is forbidden" in the local Hausa language.

The sect wants to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria's Muslim-majority north.  Its war with the Nigerian state has killed thousands of people since the insurgency began in 2009.

Yusuf was murdered that same year during a crackdown against the sect.  His deputy, Shekau, resurrected what remained of the sect.  It reemerged in 2010 more violent than ever. 

"He [Shekau] really transformed an organization that was sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaida to an organization that operated like the Taliban and al-Qaida.  Whereas for Yusuf, it was mostly just preaching and preparing for jihad, but he [Shekau] transformed it from a preaching group about jihad to an actual jihadist group,"
said Jacob Zenn, Nigeria analyst for the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation.

Militants have attacked police and military installations, schools, churches, mosques and the U.N. headquarters in the capital, Abuja.  There have been dozens of raids, suicide bombings and drive-by shootings.

Security experts say Boko Haram militants have trained with al-Qaida linked groups in Africa, like al-Shabab and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

Experts say what people call Boko Haram is actually several distinct factions.   Moderates have split off - some wanting dialogue with the government, others forming new militant groups, like Ansaru, which took issue with the sect's killing of Muslims. 

Nigeria launched a massive land and air offensive against Boko Haram in the northeast in May. 

Despite the military's reports of success, attacks have continued, not all of them claimed by Boko Haram.

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Comment Sorting
by: K Taddonio from: New York, NY
November 15, 2013 9:50 AM
While it is important that the United States recognizes the violent acts of Boku Haram and its splinter groups- I tend to wonder whether this designation is really significant. Seems to be a passive act by the government without any real implications or meaning.

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Nigeria
November 14, 2013 9:21 PM
it will only cost 1 politician's loot to build a well needed military baracks in all our porus boarders to better protect the country ,when are we ever gonna have reasonable leaders?

by: freedom
November 14, 2013 12:54 PM
Let the BIAFRANS Go and stop killing them, They have the highest number of christians in Nigeria and are involved in all these killings by the so called islamic boko haram. Nigeria can only be good if it will be splitted into three and everyone will go their way and mind their own tradition, religious and cultural belief.
In Response

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
November 14, 2013 10:51 PM
Splitting Nigeria into several small mini states will never ever solve any current political problems.
People ought to be educated themselves about the benefit of staying united, accountability, fairness and democracy.
In my country, Somalia, where everybody seems to have one language, culture, tradition and religion, but we continued mercilessly slaughtering one another, raping girls as young as five year old, and splitting the country into hundreds of small mini states. We created in our neighbouring country the largest refugee camp in the world. Yet unfortunately solving all these problems seems very remote. I strongly believe that only mass education is the only way out.

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