On September 30, as many as 50 students in College of Agriculture, Yobo, Nigeria were shot dead in their sleep as men from Boko Haram barged in their dormitory and killed them. Similarly, on July 6, 29 students and teachers in a school in the same area were burnt to death when members of the same Islamist group set the institute ablaze.
These atrocities are attributed to Boko Haram – a terrorist group based in Nigeria and functional in surrounding African countries nicknamed so. The organisation’s official name is Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad. ‘Western education is sinful’, is its mission statement however, its targets have varied from police headquarters to even Muslim clerics and mosques. Known for its ideology against contact of African Islamic countries’ with the West, the group was recently banned in UK according to report of BBC News dating back to July 8, 2013. However, the groups or its founders and members’ name remains absent from the lists of sanctioned terrorist groups in EU and USA both. Lacking a concentration in its targets and opting for varied reasons for violence across Nigeria, the group is an augmenting source of terror for not only Africa but the West as well.
Boko Haram started off in 2001 as an indigenous group, gaining support of unemployed youth in Nigeria in the name of revolting against corrupt politicians and security officials. Its main theme ideology is shunning Western education and development from the society and building an Islamic state in Nigeria however, its targets include mosques and clerics; basically whoever showed opposition against them. Over the years, especially after the killing of its founder Mohammad Yusuf – a cleric, it has divided into people with different aims ranging from strict followers of Yusuf to robbers who use the organisations name to carry out small and big crimes.
After building its base for a considerable time period, a surge in attacks by the organisation was witnessed starting 2010 and continue till date. The Nigerian President was even forced to impose a state of emergency in some states on May 15, 2013. However, the crack-down operation launched after this caused the group to turn more volatile – the two aforementioned incidents being two examples.
According to the common, basic structure of the much-debated definition of terrorism presented by Alex Schmid and Leonard Weinberg, Ami Pedahzur and Sican Hirsch-Hoefler threat or use of violence, publicity and attainment of goals should be reflected in an act of violence for it to be termed at terrorism. In both cases of Boko Haram’s action, the formerly mentioned aspects are present. There is an evident use of force and threat as these Islamists have used guns and fire not only to kill but harass a large number of people in the area. Also, in the backdrop, the driving force of these actions is the gain for their overall mission – to curb the spread of education. Not only was this the immediate effect but was a prolonged effect. Even in the past, these attacks by Boko Haram have caused families in Yobo state to withdraw their children from school, which shows the achievement of this group as a terrorist organisation.
Other incidents involving Boko Haram include 4 prison breaks in which scores of inmates were freed, attacks on churches, police offices and killing of general public at different places. What is common in all of these is that there is no particular target however, the group is trying to achieve some hidden political gain as all of these are somewhat indirect hints to the government. In terrorising various communities and groups in a country, this organisation can only be trying to say something to the government. However, what makes many media sources call it ‘shady’ is that it never tries to approach the establishment directly despite, many daring attempts to hint aggression towards them. Similarly, a major part of their mission and action is based on Islam, it is not evident from the pattern of their action that they are targeting non-Muslims only as most people targeted so far were Muslims. Even most of the Muslim population stands in opposition to this so-called ‘Islamist’ group.
All in all, carrying a mysterious air around it, Boko Haram has clearly been wrecking havoc in an already-troubled region of the world, which now calls for serious attention from the EU. Banning the group in the region would make it easier to alert all security forces against them thus, preventing Boko Haram from trying to bypass any stringent measures to nab them.