By Maria Gerbic
Extremist Islamic group Boko Haram has increased its aggression towards the Nigerian government with its recent acts of terror. On April 14, the group executed a mass abduction of 276 schoolgirls while they were sleeping. Nigeria is teaming up with other countries as they race against the clock to find the girls. Countries across the world are receiving intelligence about what has been occuring in northern Nigeria and have begun actions to locate and restrain the influence of Boko Haram.
What is Boko Haram?
Boko Haram is an extremist Islamic terrorist group centered in Northern Nigeria. The name Boko Haram translates to “Western education is a sin.” The group originated in 2002, formed by Mohammed Yusef, a Muslim cleric. Yusef set up a religious complex with a mosque and a school, where many poor Muslim families enrolled their children, which began the influence of Boko Haram on young Nigerian children.
Boko Haram was originally headed by Mohammed Yusef, but when Yusef was killed in 2009 along with 700 followers, Abubakar Shekau took over. Shekau was more radical than Yusef and enforced stricter laws and a campaign for terror. Shekau uses the Islamic faith to recruit and radicalize residents of Nigeria, convincing them that a stricter enforcement of Islamic Sharia law is necessary. Shekau has been behind many acts of terror during recent years in Nigeria. Boko Haram promotes the religious belief that forbids Muslims to participate in social and political activities that are associated with the Western world. This outlaws voting, receiving a secular education, and forbids the education of women. Boko Haram enforces Sharia law, which states that women should be at home raising children and looking after their husbands. They are fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. Their attacks have intensified recently to demonstrate their defiance against the Nigerian government and corrupt military.
The group launched its insurgency in 2009, and since then has attacked schools in northern Nigeria, abducted girls, performed bombings, assassinations, and several other acts of terror. The group often kidnaps women and girls and forces them into slavery. The most recent crime against humanity is the abduction of 276 girls from their beds at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok. In a videotape, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau declared: “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah…There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.” Nigerian citizens are protesting Boko Haram and what they have done to their daughters. Parents are hopeful that their girls will be found before they disappear into slavery.
After the recent abduction of the students last month in Nigeria, the search to find the girls and Boko Haram has intensified. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan stated in a speech in Abuja on Thursday, “I believe the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end for terror in Nigeria.” Nigerian efforts to subdue Boko Haram have been ineffective, due to weak military forces and civilian revolts against the government’s harsh tactics to protect Nigeria’s security. International governments have offered assistance to track down Boko Haram. British satellites with tracking capabilities, China’s intelligence gathering network, France’s specialized team, and the US military will join together to find the girls. The US has gathered a team of law enforcement experts and military advisers who will be sent to Northern Nigeria. The US has set a $7 million dollar bounty on Boko Haram’s leader, and as other nations become more aware of the atrocities, countries will maximize priority on the hunt for Boko Haram.
The group will be hard to find because the area where the girls were snatched is heavily forested and remote. The abductors could also move across the border to Cameroon, Chad, or Niger. The hostage situation also limits search options because air strikes and ground assaults could kill the kidnapped students. Time is also a factor that lessens the likelihood of success because the abductions occurred on April 14, roughly 3 weeks ago. Nigerian government has a poor program to battle terrorism, so they rely on other nations to strengthen the search.