Boko Haram brings brutal violence to Northern Nigeria

Boko Haram is responsible for the recent gruesome killings in Nigeria. Photo: AP

NEW YORK, August 26, 2013 — New gory details have emerged in what was first reported as the killing of 35 Muslim worshipers and the wounding of 14 last week in the town of Dumba village in Borno State, Nigeria.

News of the tragedy was slow to emerge because the area where it happened is remote and because internet and phone lines had been cut off by authorities in the attempt to disrupt the activities of the terrorist group Boko Haram, suspected of the perpetrating the massacre. It was the second such incident in this month.

New reporting today indicates that 44 victims had their throats slit, and the remaining victims had their eyes gouged out.  An official of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained that the group adopted this method of killing as a strategy to avoid sound from gunfire which attracts security forces.

Borno state is located in the northeast of Nigeria, bordering Niger, Chad, and Cameroon is the headquarters of Boko Haram, which now has members in these surrounding countries as well. 

The name Boko Haram combines Hausa and Arabic language. Haram is the Qur’anic concept referring to that which is “forbidden,” as it may to apply to any number of religious, moral, and ethical prohibitions.  The term Boko is less clear.  Since the group has now also adopted the all Arabic name Jamā’at ahl as-sunnah li-d-da’wa wa-l-jihād, meaning the Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, the commonly presumed translation for the group’s name Boko Haram is “Western Education is Forbidden,” but Hausa speakers know the word Boko to mean animism.  This brings the roots of Muslim opposition to far more distant origins when Islam was confronted and repulsed by Traditional African religions practiced in Borno’s small villages.

The modern roots of Boko Haram began in 1995 as Shabaab, Muslim Youth Organization.  Its founding leader left to continue his education, and Mohammed Yusuf took over the group’s leadership, reorienting it to political purposes.  Under Yusuf, the group officially became known as Boko Haram in 2002. The group’s the aim became the establishment of a Shari’a government in Borno State.  It remained relatively peaceful for 7 years, and in 2009 that the group became violent in response to a  Nigerian government investigation into the group’s activities following reports that its members were arming themselves. Since then, death estimates caused by what now has become an intensely violent group range from AP’s 1700 to others as high as 4000. 

SEE RELATED: Boko Haram and Barack Obama’s war with words

It is accurate to identify Boko Haram as Islamist, as its self-expressed purposes involve the establishment of a Taliban-like Sharia state, but it is mixed in its make up and sources of extreme violence.  It is anti-government having for example, bombed the United Nations (UN) House in Abuja and other government owned structures.  It  has non-Muslims as its members, and has attacked prominent Muslims, mosques, and has killed Islamic religious leaders.

Boko Haram violence is acute, and should function as a bellwether for an emerging center of instability and breeding ground of extreme militant purpose and organization. 

The massive destabilization of the region was greatly exacerbated by the US and British led invasion of Libya. 

The U.N. Security Council reports that weapons smuggled out of Libyan military stockpiles last year results in the influx of arms from Libya to organized criminal groups and terror networks. Since May Boko Haram insurgents have been fighting the army with sophisticated weapons from Libya.

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Frank Kaufmann

Frank Kaufmann is Editor in Chief of New World Encyclopedia (a values based, general knowledge encyclopedia), executive director of the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (an international, interreligious peace organization), founder and president of Values in Knowledge Foundation (a movement to to meet the challenges and undo the harm caused by declining content in the world of  knowledge and information).

Frank Kaufmann's work for peace includes efforts in over 65 countries with successes in conflict ridden and violent environments.

This mission to produce and maintain New World Encyclopedia involves supporting a virtual academy of over 500 international scholars as contributors. 



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