Twenty-two worshippers were killed when two female suicide bombers attacked a mosque in North-Eastern Nigeria’s Maiduguri on the 17th of March. It is reported that eighteen others were injured in the attacks which coincidentally happened in the birth-place of Boko Haram.
“We were just a few metres away from the mosque when a loud bang erupted and all we could see was dark smoke and bodies littered around,” said a witness told the Associated Press. This attack comes at a time when it is apparent that Boko Haram has now adopted a new approach to its terror attacks after losing considerable territory to the Nigerian army. Interestingly, the Nigerian President claimed Boko Haram had been defeated last December and this proclamation brought with it considerable scepticism and for good reason too now that Boko Haram is manifesting itself through suicide bombings by women and children. The Boko Haram death toll is now way over 20 000 and this is a ridiculously high number.
Boko Haram is the most aggressive response to Western civilization yet in Africa. It is now an extension of the Islamic State as it declared allegiance last year. ISIS is bad news on its own and pursues the same objectives of resisting the West by killing off people. The logic is hard to follow but clearly in the case of Boko Haram, Western civilization and education is “haram” (forbidden) and abductions of school children together with killings are meant to remind people of just how “haram” their way of life is.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 with the primary function of opposing Western education. Militarization of the opposition only started in 2009 after which it was declared a terrorist group by the United States in 2013. The group’s founding leader, Mohammed Yusuf was killed in police custody in 2009 and the current leader is Abubakar Shekau. The group was named the deadliest terrorist group of 2014 having killed 6 644 people that year. This was again the year it abducted 276 girls from Chibok and declared a caliphate in the territory it captured.
The war against Boko Haram started just as soon as they militarised their activism in 2009. In 2009, an offensive against Boko Haram was launched by the name Operation Flush II in Maiduguri and no less than 17 members of the group were injured. Yusuf, the then leader called on his followers to fight back and indeed about five days of heavy attacks followed, after which Yusuf was caught and summarily executed. Boko Haram went under the covers for almost a year and emerged with renewed wrath to kill and gain control. In 2011, Boko Haram rammed a car into the UN Headquarters killing 23 people. On the side, Ansaru, an arm of Boko Haram started kidnapping foreigners.
It is hard to describe Boko Haram as one unit pursuing insurgency and terrorism but as a terrorist franchise. At the very bottom, there is relative autonomy but structures are solidified as they go up the organisational ladder. It is therefore arguable if Shekau is still alive and it is tricky to make assumptions of the level of success of the fight against Boko terror. President Buhari knows all about that. The extensive network of Boko Haram means the group can access weaponry from within and without Nigeria. Indeed their activities have affected Chad, Niger and Cameroon while the rest of Africa has been attacked by fear of sudden attacks.
The Nigerian army unfortunately is known for human rights abuse when it goes out to “save” areas from the clutches of the terror group. It is sad that the army itself can be a terror group deserting its protective duty. Sometimes it has indiscriminately punished people without proof of their affiliation to Boko Haram and such behaviour is uncalled for. The end of Boko Haram seems so close yet so far away. With Al Shabaab at the other end of the continent, it seems terrorism is seeing its good days which are a curse to people who just want peace. Terrorism is also an enemy of economic development as political and social instability have a bearing on business performance.
Prayers are with Nigeria but the hope is that a more robust system of countering terrorism is implemented before the soft attacks by suicide bombers culminate in hard results. Enough lives have been lost.
Image Credit: IRIN