The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, better known as Boko Haram, which means “western education is sin,” is a Nigerian jihadist and terrorist organization feared for its lethal militancy and indiscriminate bloodshed. The militant group constantly makes headlines for carrying out a plethora of attacks, from school, church and mosque bombings to political and religious assassinations.
The group was in the news this week for abducting more than 100 school girls from the town of Chibok in the northeastern state of Borno, Nigeria. After an armed and fierce confrontation between soldiers and the militants, the girls who are students at a boarding school were rushed out of bed into buses, trucks and vans, and driven off.
The Nigerian military released a statement in the capital city of Abuja on Wednesday stating that all but eight of the 129 girls had been recovered. However the girls’ families, Borno government officials and the school management are refuting the reports, and claim that nearly all the girls are still being held. Lawan Zanna, one of the fathers of the kidnapped student calls the military statement, “a blatant lie.” Claiming that the military was indulging in subterfuge and propaganda, Zanna says that only 14 of the 129 kidnapped girls are free.
The grief-stricken and frightened man is supported by Asabe Kwambura, the principle of Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Chibok, where the girls are students. According to Kwambura, a total of 14 girls escaped on their own, with no help from the military while the rest remain in captivity.
Similar attacks by Boko Haram, has turned the group into a synonym of unmitigated fear and violence in Nigeria. An Islamist militant group, Boko Haram with their motto of “western education is sin” perpetrated so much violence in the state of Borno in early March, that authorities closed all 85 secondary schools and sent more than 120,000 students home.
With apparent ambitions of destroying the present Nigerian government, the militant group wants stricter enforcement of Sharia law across the nation, which is divided into a majority Muslim north and a largely Christian south.
Founded in 2002 by a magnetic cleric Mohammed Yusuf who preached for a pure Islamic state in Nigeria, Boko Haram has been accused of murdering westerners and targeting religious institutions, including mosques that don’t support their cause.
Their violence escalated after Nigerian police killed Yusuf in 2009, which was caught on camera and posted on the Internet. Presently, Boko Haram is being led by Abubakar Shekau, an elusive figure, who is known to be a ruthless master of disguise. Shekau prefers to remain unknown and communicates his commands through select confidants.
Boko Haram operates in the Muslim north because it has substantial local sympathy. Many of the residents support Sharia law and believe that it is the only way to end what is an incompetent and corrupt government.
As the group advocates violently against the Nigerian government and western mores, it has been included in a list of terrorists last year, with the United States putting a $7 million reward for Shekau. This was done because Nigeria, one of Africa’s most populous nations, is considered a rising political and economic power. It’s oil economy is booming and the African country is a major American and Chinese trading partner.
While Nigerian military and police battle and contain Boko Haram and it’s ideology of “western education is sin,” the violence seems to be far from over. Last reported, the abducted girls’ families continue to claim that the children had not been freed and that their fates still remain in limbo.
By Monalisa Gangopadhyay.