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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs