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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    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?

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.