What is Boko Haram and can it be stopped?
ISLAMIST terrorist group Boko Haram has killed up to 162 people in a series of bombings on government buildings and police stations in the Nigerian city of Kano. Friday’s attacks are the deadliest yet to be claimed by Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria. But what is this group and how dangerous are they?
WHAT IS BOKO HARAM?
Boko Haram - which roughly translates as ‘Western education is a sin’ - is a Nigerian Islamist terrorist group, founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002 in the northern city of Maiduguri. The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which is Arabic for ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’. The more catchy Boko Haram is a Hausa phrase which may have been coined by the Nigerian government or locals in Maiduguri.
HAS BOKO HARAM ALWAYS BEEN VIOLENT?
For seven years after the group was founded in 2002, Boko Haram was largely non-violent. That all changed in July 2009 when suspicions that Boko Haram was arming led to the arrests of some of its members.
Boko Haram retaliated by attacking police stations in Maiduguri. A military operation against Boko Haram’s compound led to the deaths of around 100 people and the arrest of Yusuf. He was shot dead the following day when he allegedly tried to escape custody.
WHAT DOES BOKO HARAM WANT?
Officially, it wants to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria and the introduction of Sharia law. But it isn’t that simple. A report by the Council on Foreign Relations notes: “Injustice and poverty, as well as the belief that the West is a corrupting influence… are root causes of both the desire to implement sharia and Boko Haram’s pursuit of an Islamic state.”
Nigerian analyst Chris Ngwodo says in the report: “The group itself is an effect and not a cause; it is a symptom of decades of failed government and elite delinquency finally ripening into social chaos.”