Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group which aims to topple Nigeria’s government, appears to be using female suicide bombers. Boko Haram came to international attention when they stormed into a boarding school and kidnapped almost 300 schoolgirls, prompting a massive campaign to Bring Back Our Girls. Their brutal tactics have caused even al-Qaida to distance themselves from the group.
Boko Haram had kidnapped girls before to marry or use for sex slavery, but appears to plan on using these girls as bargaining chips, taunting in a video, “You are saying bring back our girls, we are saying bring back our men.” It has been 115 days since the girls were abducted. Demonstrators gathered by the dozens each day to intercede for the girl’s freedom saying, “Our hope lies in the hands of the government.”
The government claims they know where the girls are, but delays attacking because they are unwilling for any of the girls to be killed. U.S. surveillance flights have seen up to 70 girls in an open field and on another occasion spotted about 40. Nigerian President Jonathan claims to have “worked tirelessly to win the girl’s freedom” but refuses to exchange prisoners saying, “We do not exchange innocent people for criminals. That is not in the cards.”
Now the government itself has come under fire, with many accusing them of showing disrespect for due process. Amnesty International has released a video detailing where Nigerian soldiers appear to slit the throats of Boko Haram men and dump their bodies in mass graves. Major General Chris Olukolade assures that the “military authorities view these grave allegations very seriously,” and claims this is “alien to our operations doctrines.” He insists “respect for the sanctity of life” is emphasized in their training.
Brutality seems to be a main reason the U.S. and British forces have not given Nigeria more support against the insurgents. U.S. surveillance flights continue over the area at least once daily. The U.S., the UK and Israel have all offered to help. However, there have been complaints against Nigeria’s military for human rights abuses including torture and killing.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” began as a clerical movement against Western culture until its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in 2009, when it became a full-scale armed rebellion. The group began cross-border raids in 2012, but recently these have become more frequent. In June, Boko Haram abducted another 20 girls from a town close to where the original group was taken. In July, the terrorists attacked two towns, burning down four churches and killing more than 30 people. Two weeks later, they leveled several villages in northeast Nigeria, leaving thousands displaced and dozens dead.
The insurgents have carried out 11 suicide bombings since 2009. Last week, four suicide bombings were carried out by female Boko Haram teenagers in Kano, the biggest northern city, one at a university campus, another at a station in line for kerosene, at a shopping center, and at a college campus within a crowd of students. Government spokesman, Mike Omeri, said three people have been arrested in Katsina, including two girls, aged 10 and 18, with explosives strapped to them.
The Bring Back Our Girls campaign generated more than four million tweets, including one from Michelle Obama. However, “tweeting, posting, liking, uploading, etc. are no substitute for physical action,” points out Gary Bauer. He acknowledges that the Nigerian girls may be rescued eventually but insists it will be “due to strong and serious diplomacy conducted by brave men and women willing to confront evil head-on.”
By Laurie Stilwell