News / Africa

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Forces Victims to Fight, Kill

People gather at the scene of a car bomb explosion, at the central market, in Maiduguri, Nigeria, July 1, 2014. They immediately blamed Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group, whose birthplace is Maiduguri.
People gather at the scene of a car bomb explosion, at the central market, in Maiduguri, Nigeria, July 1, 2014. They immediately blamed Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group, whose birthplace is Maiduguri.
Heather Murdock

The Boko Haram insurgency continues to expand in size and tactics, kidnapping villagers and forcing them to fight.

But what may appear to be mayhem in northeastern Nigeria, is actually a strategy to wrest territory from the Nigerian government by isolating the northern seat of power.  

Forced to join Boko Haram
 

Boko Haram
 
  • Based in the northeastern city of Maiduguri
  • Self-proclaimed leader is Abubakar Shekau
  • Began in 2002 as a non-violent Islamist splinter group
  • Launched uprising in 2009
  • Has killed thousands since 2010
  • Boko Haram translates to "Western education is sinful"
  • Wants Nigeria to adopt strict Islamic law

Kidnapping is becoming more common as Boko Haram militants storm villages, taking men, women and children. Last week, nearly 100 victims were reportedly rescued from insurgents, but no one knows how many are still being held.
 
The victims are often forced to join Boko Haram, blurring the line between the attackers and those they attack.
 
“These young people out there in the forest [are] without hope now," said James Wuye, a pastor who counsels kidnap victims in northern Nigeria. "Their only hope is to die. We should save them. I think we should pity everybody on each side. This violence is affecting both the perceived victim and the aggressors.”

Kidnap victims are strengthening Boko Haram by growing their army, says Yan St. Pierre, the CEO of the Berlin-based security consulting firm MOSECON.

Gaining ground
 
Where once the group was just trying to survive, he says it is now trying to take over territories.

“Boko Haram is now planning strategically long-term," St. Pierre said. "It’s not about replenishing forces. It’s about acquiring more personnel.”

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people this year alone in a growing, five-year-old insurgency. The group -- which says it wants to enforce a harsh version of Islamic law -- is constantly morphing, and is increasingly well-armed and well-funded.

Brutal tactics

St. Pierre says the insurgents are using tactics pioneered by Joseph Kony in Uganda and Charles Taylor in Sierra Leone to gain loyalty from victims. He says kidnap victims, including children, are sometimes forced to kill people they know or love.
 
“By making them kill their own parents or their own family it makes them be in a position where they can’t go back," he said. "Psychologically they are absolutely broken. They killed their parents. They literally murdered what brought them to life.  In that sense, their loyalty becomes to the only family that they have now, which is the army or the terrorist group that kidnapped them.”

He says Boko Haram also kidnaps girls and women, including the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted four months ago, to use as household help, sex slaves and most recently, bombers.
 
Last month, at least nine people were killed in four attacks by female suicide bombers. Two other girls were arrested, one was a 10 year old strapped with a bomb.

“They’re taking these little girls now and using them as weapons," St. Pierre said. "So it’s a double use by kidnapping girls.”

Circle of Power

In Borno and Adamawa states, two of the three Nigerian states that have been under emergency rule for more than a year, locals report that Boko Haram has taken over villages and towns, killing anyone who objects.  
 
Analysts say the group's aim appears to be to create a circle of power around the Borno State government in the city of Maiduguri, with the goal of taking the state capital.
 
Nigeria previously said it has not, and will not, allow Boko Haram to rule any parts of Nigeria.  
 
“The Nigerian military will not concede any portion of this country to terrorists or any such group,” said Major General Chris Olukolade, a defense spokesman.

However, a Boko Haram “takeover” may not be what it sounds like. If villagers are terrified into pledging loyalty to Boko Haram, the group can essentially control the area without hanging flags or building walls.

Ibrahima Yakubu contributed to this report from Kaduna.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Precious Samuel from: Abuja
August 21, 2014 4:57 AM
Before terrorism wil stop in Nigeria, until the corruption in Nigerian Army during recruitment stop.


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 20, 2014 2:29 PM
There is poor surveillance and intelligence gathering by the Nigerian security operatives. Add to that the fact that the country is largely corrupt and men in the war fronts are starved of weapons to confront the militants. Presently the Nigerian Defense headquarters is battling to defend the allegation of mutiny wherein some soldiers have refused to go to war against boko haram unless they are equipped with good enough weapons backed by proper intelligence.

On the issue of kidnappings and conscription, I think boko haram cannot see that to its advantage. The snag about that is poor civic orientation of citizens to enlist in defense of the country. How can boko haram hand them guns and tell them whom to shoot when a battle is raging? Why can they not know how to turn the gun against their assailants instead of the innocent citizens to whom they belong, even if boko haram had forced them to kill their own close relatives? Maybe it works for boko haram in the mean time, but it's not going to continue to its advantage for too long.

All Nigeria needs to defeat boko haram in the places they have taken over includes having an agreement with the border towns and countries in Cameroon, Chad and Niger, organize a sweep operation from all round the territory to cut off its supply of everything, and then make sure every nook and corner of the territory is searched to flush out the miscreants. I predict boko haram defeat is imminent, only if corruption is removed, and the bigwigs of northeastern politics surrender the properties which the insurgents have used to fight Nigeria. It must make sure those Hezbollah operatives in the country and in the region are identified, searched and arrested to stop inflow of weapons and funds to the group.

It's not enough for Olukolade to sit in his office in Abuja and dish out comments while he does not know what is on the ground. Himself and Omeri cannot continue to tell us that boko haram has not taken any territory in Nigeria while we know that some towns are already paying weekly taxes to the group? What remains of them is to schedule and conduct their own election in the territories before the government will tell us the truth? What about the people who have evacuated from those places and now live in Cameroon, Chad, Niger or other parts of Nigeria?

Sure it's a face-saving mission when either Mike Omeri or Chris Olukolade goes on air to tell us that boko haram is being defeated. While it is the wish of most Nigerians to see it happen, it has not, and boko haram still has the upper hand especially in Borno State. After all it took hostage another 100 persons this month; thanks to the Chadian army, it would have added to the number of people to be included in the harshtag release our people protest. There is no need to mention the failure of the US deployment to Chad purportedly to help Nigeria fight the insurgency. Did it just end there? Whither USA, drones and intelligence?


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 20, 2014 10:54 AM
There is poor surveillance and intelligence gathering by the Nigerian security operatives. Add to that the fact that the country is largely corrupt and men in the war fronts are starved of weapons to confront the militants. Presently the Nigerian Defense headquarters is battling to defend the allegation of mutiny wherein some soldiers have refused to go to war against boko haram unless they are equipped with good enough weapons backed by proper intelligence.

On the issue of kidnappings and conscription, I think boko haram cannot see that to its advantage. The snag about that is poor civic orientation of citizens to enlist in defense of the country. How can boko haram hand them guns and tell them whom to shoot when a battle is raging? Why can they not know how to turn the gun against their assailants instead of the innocent citizens to whom they belong, even if boko haram had forced them to kill their own close relatives? Maybe it works for boko haram in the mean time, but it's not going to continue to its advantage for too long.

All Nigeria needs to defeat boko haram in the places they have taken over includes having an agreement with the border towns and countries in Cameroon, Chad and Niger, organize a sweep operation from all round the territory to cut off its supply of everything, and then make sure every nook and corner of the territory is searched to flush out the miscreants. I predict boko haram defeat is imminent, only if corruption is removed, and the bigwigs of northeastern politics surrender the properties which the insurgents have used to fight Nigeria. It must make sure those Hezbollah operatives in the country and in the region are identified, searched and arrested to stop inflow of weapons and funds to the group.

It's not enough for Olukolade to sit in his office in Abuja and dish out comments while he does not know what is on the ground. Himself and Omeri cannot continue to tell us that boko haram has not taken any territory in Nigeria while we know that some towns are already paying weekly taxes to the group? What remains of them is to schedule and conduct their own election in the territories before the government will tell us the truth? What about the people who have evacuated from those places and now live in Cameroon, Chad, Niger or other parts of Nigeria?

Sure it's a face-saving mission when either Mike Omeri or Chris Olukolade goes on air to tell us that boko haram is being defeated. While it is the wish of most Nigerians to see it happen, it has not, and boko haram still has the upper hand especially in Borno State. After all it took hostage another 100 persons this month; thanks to the Chadian army, it would have added to the number of people to be included in the harshtag release our people protest. There is no need to mention the failure of the US deployment to Chad purportedly to help Nigeria fight the insurgency. Did it just end there? Whither USA, drones and intelligence?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid