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.

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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?

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