The Leader: Everything you need to know about Boko Haram
Throughout the years, Nigeria has suffered various impacts of terrorism, including kidnappings, suicide bombings and destruction of properties, among other things. At the hands of terrorist groups, countless lives have been taken and the future of many children has been permanently stained. Despite the intensified security measures being implemented by the national government as well as Western forces, terrorist groups are still unstoppable.
This includes Boko Haram—one of the largest Islamist militant groups in Africa. Ever since it was founded in 2002, the group has already committed hundreds of suicide bombings, massacres, kidnappings and other kinds of attacks within the country.
But the question, what motivates them to do these things? What principles have they formed to continuously commit violence and abuse against innocent citizens? Continue reading below for more information.
A look into Boko Haram
Founded in 2002 by Muhammed Yusuf in Nigeria, Boko Haram calls itself the ‘Nigerian Taliban’. They are a terrorist organization that has committed large-scale acts of violence and abuse in different parts of the country. During its first few years, the group’s objective was to impose Islamic law and get rid of Western influences, which they believed to be the cause of injustice and corruption in Nigeria. They also wanted to overthrow the Nigerian government altogether to officially spread Islamic influences all over the country.
Things got ultimately worse when Muhammed Yusuf and other members were killed in July 2009. As an act of revenge, Boko Haram led a mass prison break in Bauchi and other well-executed attacks such as the suicide bombings of police establishments and the UN office. Other Boko Haram attacks had led to the deaths of more than 300,000 children, as well as famines and food poverty.
Since Boko Haram is a terrorist group which means they are not funded by the state, you might wonder where they get the money to execute these crimes. It is believed that the group had collected a fortune from the many kidnapping ransoms they gained since 2009. For instance, in 2013, the group abducted a French family while they were on their holiday trip. In exchange for their freedom and safety, they obliged the Nigerian government to pay a ransom amounting to US$3,500,000.
Just like any other terrorist group, Boko Haram operates on an extreme ideology. Their leader Muhammed Yusuf was inspired by Mohammed Marwa, an Islamic preacher who denounced the reading of literature other than the Quran. In fact, during an interview, Yusuf expressed his disagreement with the theory of evolution and other bits of proven facts. He even opposed that rain comes from evaporation since it was God himself that creates it with his bare hands.
It directly opposed the Westernization of Nigeria since the group believes that it caused a massive gap between the rich and the poor of the country. They consider Western teachings as sinful, forbidden and blasphemous, fuelling their motives to commit serious crimes against humanity.
Relationship with al-Qaeda
It is believed that Boko Haram has links with al-Qaeda, another militant group founded by Osama Bin Laden. In fact, in the year 2011, after Osama Bin Laden’s death, letters from the Nigerian terrorist group were found on his compound.
In November 2012, Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa expressed his support for al-Qaeda. They stated that they fully support the group since they are also promoting the cause of Islam, helping them carry the burden of their principles.
Boko Haram: Acts of violence
Most of Boko Haram’s attacks consist of suicide bombing, often involving women and teenagers. Their strategies are known to depend on stealth and pretence, blending in local communities like another civilian in the crowd. Here are some examples of the acts of violence they have committed throughout the decades:
Boko Haram gained the attention of national and international media in July 2009 when the group launched an attack against the authorities, killing police officers in the process. Although the police tried to get the situation under control, they failed to do so, leading them to call the army. More than 700 Boko Haram members were dead in the operation and the mosque they used as headquarters were destroyed.
Yusuf and other leaders of the group were also arrested and killed; their corpses were displayed in public. Of course, these extrajudicial killings prompted a violent reaction from the group.
Boko Haram seemed to be inactive and divided after the incident. However, they broke the news once again the following year when Abubakar Shekau, the group’s new leader, promised to avenge the deaths of Yusuf and other Boko Haram members.
After Boko Haram was revived under the new leader, they led a mass prison break where they freed 105 members in Bauchi. As promised, they made even stronger attacks in Northern Nigeria, detonating four bombs and attacking two churches.
One of the many acts of violence that added to the horrors of Nigeria was during the presidential inauguration of Goodluck Jonathan on May 29, 2011. They bombed Bauchi, Zaria and Abuja as a test of loyalty for the members hoping to join the organization.
A spokesman for Boko Haram also claimed that the group was responsible for the killing of politician Abba Anas Ibn Umar Garbai, as well as the murder of a significant Muslim figure in the country.
Boko Haram’s pattern mostly revolved around the killing and abduction of police officers or the representatives of the state. It is believed that this is to avenge the death of Yusuf, increasing the criminal activities around the country.
In April 2013, Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from Borno, announcing that they plan to sell them as slaves. This act of violence had gained them another widespread international media attention, with former First Lady Michelle Obama raising awareness about the Chibok kidnapping. During that time, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan got flak due to the rising insurgence of the terrorist group, blaming his overall incompetence.
Although some of the girls were released, a study conducted by UNICEF revealed that they faced rejection once they returned to their families due to the stigma around sexual violence and abuse. Years after the abduction, 100 girls are still missing.
However, despite this traumatic incident, Nigerian authorities have failed to intensify their security forces to protect the schools in areas where Boko Haram thrives. Criminal groups in Northern Nigeria have been constantly attacking boarding schools, kidnapping hundreds of students in exchange for a ransom.
For instance, in December 2020, bandits kidnapped over 300 students in Kankara, a small town in Nigeria’s northwestern Katsina state. This prompted the nearby states to close the schools, further encouraging the children to surrender their education.
In the year 2017, there was an increase of child suicide bombers from January to March in Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon. Some of them managed to escape from the hands of Boko Haram members and they are held in custody, typically in military barracks.
However, they are left without any kind of support, medical attention or education. According to UNICEF, this outright rejection of these victimized children can lead them to further violence and damage, leaving them with no choice but to resort to acts of terrorism.
More abductions and attacks happened the following year. In February 2018, Boko Haram kidnapped 110 schoolgirls attending the Government Technical Girls College, deciding to kill five of these girls on the same day. They released the rest of the girls, however, the Nigerian government paid a big ransom.
Two months later, the group attacked Maiduguri resulting in the deaths of approximately 18 people. What made this attack shocking was it happened when the authorities just declared that there was a ceasefire with the group.
Boko Haram vs. the Nigerian government: A never-ending battle
Just merely reading about the countless acts of violence committed by this extremist group is enough to make you lose all hope for humanity. Even though the Nigerian government has continuously implemented intensified security measures to finally put an end to Boko Haram’s atrocities, the violence persists.
When Muhammadu Buhari was finally elected as the Nigerian president in 2015, he vowed to end violence and insecurity within the country. He promised to remove corrupt military officials, increase the funding of military operations and purchase the latest military equipment for better tactics. This includes aircraft, weapons and armoured cars to be used by the Nigerian troops.
However, since terrorism is getting more out of control as years go by, Buhari failed to honour his promises. During his speech, he stated that the never-ending fight with the militant group further creates a ripple effect of senseless killings and violence, plunging the country into great danger.