Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another Boko Haram update: it's getting worse

Back in March of this year, I detailed an incident in Nigeria's Kano state wherein members of the Boko Haram sect executed some thirteen factory workers--in front of their families--for simply being Christians, nothing more. It would seem that event was only an appetizer for what lies ahead.

Source: Channels Television, Nigeria 
Boko Haram's primary goal, since it came into existence in 2001, is the founding of a Muslim state in Nigeria (and in parts of neighboring nations, as well) under strict Sharia law. As such, it is opposed to all things "western," from Christianity to education ("Boko Haram" translates to "western education forbidden"). Early this morning, that point was driven home when members of Boko Haram entered the dormitories of the Yobe State College of Agriculture (located in Yobe state, two states to the east of Kano) and gunned down dozens of students sleeping in their beds. There is no official death toll yet, but reports suggest the number of dead is at least as high as forty and will likely continue to climb.

The college itself is located in the town of Gujba, not far from the capital of Yobe, Damaturu. Total enrollment is around one thousand students, though those not injured or killed in the attack have reportedly fled the school. Who can blame them? This is not a well-funded college and it has no security to speak of. Even as compared to other colleges in Nigeria, it is on the poorer end of the scale. The buildings are old, many in need of repair, made of mud bricks and with corrugated metal roofs. But the students who attend this college are there to learn, to better their lives (and the lives of their families, their fellow citizens, and others in their nation).

Yet like the innocent workers in Kano, they have been gunned down for no real reason, for doing nothing wrong, for merely daring to live their lives. In my previous piece, I noted that the idea of amnesty has been floated in Nigeria by members of the government there, subject to Boko Haram laying down arms at the very least. But how can people like these thugs ever deserve amnesty of any sort? It's one thing to be engaged with government forces in what amounts to a civil war, it's another thing (though an awful one) to target innocents as retribution (as was the case in Nairobi, recently), but this is neither of those things. This is wanton slaughter for the sake of that slaughter, nothing more. There is no political goal--in Nigeria--being served by this attack, it does not serve as basis for demands or the like. It serves notice that Boko Haram does not care about life, that it will take any action it pleases against people who do not believe what its leaders believe, even if those people represent no threat, whatsoever.

Even more worrisome, however, is the possibility that Boko Haram is becoming more closely aligned with AQIM, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an issue I raised in another more recent piece:
AFP reports that sources close to Boko Haram say that Abu Mohammad [also dead] and Barnawi formed an alliance with the faction of Boko Haram led by Abubakar Shekau, who was also designated a "global terrorist." According to sources that AFP quotes, the three formed an alliance in which Mohammad and his group would carry out abductions for ransom, part of which would go to financing Boko Haram operations. Boko Haram, in turn, would provide security cover for Mohammad's group.
The group spoken of in the last is Ansaru, the Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Lands, which was formed by elements in Boko Haram, supposedly in response to Boko Haram's growing inhumanity. Yet, it immediately linked up with elements of AQIM in Mali and now apparently serves as a conduit from AQIM to Boko Haram, proper. It was responsible for a number of kidnappings of foreigners--with accompanying ransom demands, of course--and other attacks in 2012, but has since receded into the shadows.

The attack in Nairobi now closely followed by this one in Yobe raises the issue of coordination, as what were thought to be disparate terrorist groups appear to working towards a larger purpose, the destabilization of African nations from coast to coast, a purpose that would seem to be more in line with AQIM's goals than with those of the individual players. These are deeply tragic events and also quite worrying ones, for they may be but the tip of a coming iceberg. And aside from condemning the attacks and expressing outrage, world leaders seem largely unprepared to respond any of this.

Cheers, all.

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