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Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group whose goal is to topple Nigeria’s government, was catapulted to international attention when they swooped down on a boarding school in April and kidnapped almost 300 schoolgirls. Even Michelle Obama joined in a social media campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls.” However, the threat from Boko Haram has now escalated as 97 people are missing in an attack that took place in Maiduguri, Nigeria on Friday.
There was no military presence in the village when Boko Haram militants swarmed into the fishing community shouting “Allah Akbar” or “God (Allah) is great”, shooting indiscriminately and threatening to set fire to homes. There were 26 people killed and another five wounded. They loaded the kidnapped men and boys in trucks.
Khalifa Ahmed Zanna, a senator of Borno state in northeast Nigeria, said 28 females and 84 males were taken. Doron Baga is about 170 miles away from Chibok, where the schoolgirls were abducted in April. The Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York said Nigeria’s Muslim majority area in the north has had more than half of the 22,000 deaths due to the conflict since May 2011.
Fatima Suleiman, a woman who escaped, said the villagers fear Boko Haram would use the hostages as “foot soldiers” as they regularly target civilians and military in this area. This past week, Nigerian military forces have fought gun battles with Boko Haram in two key towns in Borno Gwoza.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and Boko Haram aspires to seize all the northeast of Nigeria soon. On Wednesday, their forces overran the city of Gwoza, a town of around 50,000. Schools had already closed due to the threat and around 40,000 people were sheltering there. As the threat escalates, hundreds of thousands flee the Boko Haram militants.
In the past year over one million people have fled to Maiduguri, the capital where they are staying with friends and relatives or living in tents surrounding the city. Diplomats fear the threat to Maiduguri is “significant.”
Now Nigerians are facing “serious humanitarian challenges” says Manzo Ezekiel of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. Farmers have been forced to leave their land. A senior official declared that the insurgents are “attacking almost on a daily basis,” so people are afraid to go home. Chadian troops are reported to have rescued 85 of those abducted, but those reports have not been confirmed.
The Nigerian government forces supposed to be fighting Boko Haram, have been accused by an Amnesty International report. They released video showing Nigerian soldiers appearing to slit the throats of Boko Haram terrorists and dumping their bodies in mass graves. There have been reports of government servicemen forcing insurgents to dig their own graves and conducting mass executions.
Transparency International has ranked Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Boko Haram has been accused of killing more than 10,000 people since 2009. The threat from Boko Haram has definitely escalated, with more than 4,000 people, mostly civilians, killed just this year. The situation in Nigeria remains critical. The Senior Fellow for Africa Policy studies at CFR, John Campbell, states that the claims of Amnesty International’s report are “all very credible, I’m afraid, with a chilling specificity.” Campbell declares Nigerian security forces kill as many civilians as Boko Haram.
By Laurie Stilwell