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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More