News / Africa

Analysts: Once Fundamentalists, Boko Haram Now Mainly Fighters

FILE - A protester calls for the release of schoolgirls abducted in April by Boko Haram.
FILE - A protester calls for the release of schoolgirls abducted in April by Boko Haram.
Heather Murdock

After five years of what is called Nigeria's "Islamist insurgency," some analysts say the conflict with militant group Boko Haram is no longer about any recognizable ideology, as the majority of victims are Muslims.  It has morphed from a religious sect into a violent movement.

More than 12 years ago in northeastern Nigeria, a group of fundamentalist Muslims led by a man named Mohammad Yusuf quietly formed.  Yusuf told followers that in order to live pure, godly lives, they should reject all things Western, especially education.

FILE - Handout photo obtained on August 5, 2009 shows Mohammed Yusuf surrounded by soldiers at Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, on July 30, 2009 shortly after his capture by Nigerian troops.FILE - Handout photo obtained on August 5, 2009 shows Mohammed Yusuf surrounded by soldiers at Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, on July 30, 2009 shortly after his capture by Nigerian troops.
x
FILE - Handout photo obtained on August 5, 2009 shows Mohammed Yusuf surrounded by soldiers at Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, on July 30, 2009 shortly after his capture by Nigerian troops.
FILE - Handout photo obtained on August 5, 2009 shows Mohammed Yusuf surrounded by soldiers at Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, on July 30, 2009 shortly after his capture by Nigerian troops.

Some locals thought the group was a bit odd, and nicknamed them “Boko Haram,” which roughly means, “Western education is sin.”

Years later security forces began investigating the group after reports that they were arming themselves and tensions were high.​

​A YouTube video shows Yusuf being interrogated by police in 2009.  In July that same year, he was killed while in police custody.

A video shows his body, mangled and torn.  Clashes between security forces and sect members erupted, killing hundreds of people that year.  

A violent turn

A year later, Boko Haram re-emerged, heavily armed.  Since then, the carnage has been relentless, with thousands of people killed this year alone.  Hundreds of teenage girls have been held captive for nearly three months now, and hundreds of other schoolchildren have been murdered in their beds.
 

FILE - A video from Boko Haram claims to show the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls in a screengrab taken May 12, 2014.FILE - A video from Boko Haram claims to show the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls in a screengrab taken May 12, 2014.
x
FILE - A video from Boko Haram claims to show the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls in a screengrab taken May 12, 2014.
FILE - A video from Boko Haram claims to show the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls in a screengrab taken May 12, 2014.

The spokesman for the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria, Sheik Abdullahi Bayero, says the violence has nothing to do with Islamism, which is the belief that Islam is the best political system.  
 
“The people called Boko Haram, they claim to be fighting for the cause of Islam and the same time picking arms to kill Muslims," said Bayero. "And what do you call that?  Agitating they want to have an Islamic state or rather an Islamic nation?  And you can imagine picking arms and killing the Muslims?  Who will they rule after killing the Muslims?"

Other religious leaders disagree, saying the insurgency is part of a larger religious conflict.  Nigeria is about half Muslim and half Christian, and while every city in the country has Muslims and Christians living together in peace, the two groups are also often separated along political, geographical and tribal lines.  
 
Religious violence

Violence between Muslims and Christians unrelated to Boko Haram has also killed thousands of people in the past four years.
 

Soldiers stand guard outside St. Rita's Catholic church following a suicide bombing in Kaduna, Nigeria, Oct. 28, 2012.Soldiers stand guard outside St. Rita's Catholic church following a suicide bombing in Kaduna, Nigeria, Oct. 28, 2012.
x
Soldiers stand guard outside St. Rita's Catholic church following a suicide bombing in Kaduna, Nigeria, Oct. 28, 2012.
Soldiers stand guard outside St. Rita's Catholic church following a suicide bombing in Kaduna, Nigeria, Oct. 28, 2012.

“Basically the offensive is against the church.  It’s against Christianity and Christians," said Ayo Oritsejafor, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria. "But right now, in the last six months or thereabout they’ve started attacking Muslims as well.”

He says Boko Haram targets Muslims that do not agree with their ideology, citing the murders of several prominent sheiks that preached against extremism.
 
“There are also Muslims that give out information to security agents about these people because they don’t believe in it so they give out information.  They also go after those people and kill them,” Oritsejafor said.

Other religious leaders say Boko Haram’s targets are so varied that it is impossible to tell what the group’s real goals are.

“Only those who are in Boko Haram will tell you whether it is religion or not religion.  Only those that are part and parcel of it that knows what they want to achieve,” said Pastor Yohanna Buru, the president of the Peace Revival and Reconciliation Foundation of Nigeria.

FILE - Victims of a suicide bomb explosion at a World Cup viewing center receive treatment at Sani Abacha specialist hospital in Damaturu, Nigeria, June 18, 2014.FILE - Victims of a suicide bomb explosion at a World Cup viewing center receive treatment at Sani Abacha specialist hospital in Damaturu, Nigeria, June 18, 2014.
x
FILE - Victims of a suicide bomb explosion at a World Cup viewing center receive treatment at Sani Abacha specialist hospital in Damaturu, Nigeria, June 18, 2014.
FILE - Victims of a suicide bomb explosion at a World Cup viewing center receive treatment at Sani Abacha specialist hospital in Damaturu, Nigeria, June 18, 2014.

Analysts say Boko Haram now appears to be capturing villages and towns, and is increasingly well-armed, with leaders from the northeast - a region that has been under emergency rule for more than a year - saying the group even has helicopters dropping food and arms into the forest.
 
The group still says non-Islamic education is punishable by death, but has not explained what kind of behavior will spare people from its ruthless attacks.

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid