News / Africa

Nigerian Sect Targets Security Forces, Non-Muslim Civilians

Bodies lay on the streets near an armored vehicle in Maiduguri after religious clashes in Northern Nigeria, July 31, 2009 (file photo).
Bodies lay on the streets near an armored vehicle in Maiduguri after religious clashes in Northern Nigeria, July 31, 2009 (file photo).

Multimedia

Audio

Islamic militants in Nigeria belonging to the Boko Haram group are being blamed for a series of attacks in the city of Maiduguri including bombings on Sunday and Monday that killed at least 28 people.

Boko Haram began in 2004 as a gathering of fundamentalist, middle-class university students united behind the meaning of the group's name, which in the Hausa language means “Western education is sinful.”

“Boko Haram started as a very innocuous and seemingly harmless organization of people who acted more or less as devotees, as religious devotees who have taken religion so seriously as to segregate themselves, confine themselves to certain settlements far away from the mainstream society,” said Abubakar Umar Kari, a professor of sociology at the University of Abuja.

Boko Haram set as its goal the creation of a new country under Islamic law. It recognizes neither Nigeria's constitution nor the federal government in Abuja. That drew the attention of security forces, especially when more than 200 members of the group set up camp in Yobe State along the border with Niger.

Nigerian police say that group attacked a local police station and escaped with weapons. Boko Haram says they were harassed by police who assaulted unarmed militants.

Already facing growing unrest in the oil-rich Niger Delta, Professor Kari says the government of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo could not allow Boko Haram's threat to go unchecked, which only reinforced the group's militancy.

“Their decision to resort to violence, it started largely as a reaction to the spate of attacks that were being meted against them by the security," noted Kari.  "And that is another major problem with Nigeria.  Normally, those in authority think the best way to tackle or address a problem is through coercion.”

Boko Haram launched a coordinated uprising across much of the north in July 2009.  That revolt was put down by Nigeria's military in a campaign that killed more than 800 people, including Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf.

Since then, the group has focused on ambushing military convoys and political and religious leaders as well as bombing police and military posts.

Boko Haram bombed national police headquarters in Abuja earlier this month. In a telephone interview before the most recent attacks in Maiduguri, Boko Haram spokesman Usman Alzawahiri said there can be no reconciliation with people who want to destroy the movement.

Alzawahiri added that Boko Haram fighters have returned from training in Somalia and will drive the Nigerian government into exile in Ghana or Cameroon just as Islamic militants in Somalia drove the government into exile in Kenya.  

President Goodluck Jonathan has repeatedly offered to open talks with the group. Appealing for calm, he says terrorism is a global threat, and Nigeria is no exception.

“No country is free," said Jonathan.  "Nigeria is also having some ugly incidents relating to that. We have been meeting the security agencies on top of this. People should not be panicky at all.”

President Jonathan is a Christian from southern Nigeria who was elected in a vote that broke down along the country's regional and ethnic divide. Jonathan won most of the vote in the mainly-Christian south. His opponent, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, won most of the vote in the mainly-Muslim north.

Sociology professor Kari says that makes Boko Haram particularly troubling for President Jonathan.

“His major challenge, even minus Boko Haram, was to try to reintegrate the country," added Kari.  "But now in their activities and tactics and strategies, Boko Haram can easily sharpen or worsen this divide.”

By targeting non-Muslims in bombings of beer gardens in Bauchi and Maiduguri, Kari says Boko Haram increases the risk of faith-based reprisals in a country where Human Rights Watch says at least 800 people were killed in religious violence following last month's vote.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid