Who are Boko Haram? And what happened to the 270 kidnapped school girls?

Boko Haram kidnapped 270 girls between the ages of 12 and 17, from the school pictured above, many of whom were then later sold as child brides for $12.

Boko Haram have been blamed for the kidnapping of more than 200 teenage girls. Channel 4 News explains who they are – and what they want:

Jonathan Miller: In 12 years, Boko  Haram has gone from infancy to a full blown Isalimst insurgency. Last year, the Nigerian government in Abuja had the opportunity to  strike a peace deal with them. But the government pulled out at the last minute, even though the entire Boko Haram leadership was apparently onboard.

Today, they’ve essentially been highjacked as an Al Qaida franchise, with affiliates right across from the Islamic mihrab. They are thought to have commanders in Nigeria’s 36 states, and even, it’s says, explosives, ready to go. They are armed and they are dangerous, but their insurgency is focused primarily on 5 northeastern nigerian states where they want to install a government of pure sharia Islamic law.

Are they Africa’s Taliban?

Well, it’s a bit of an ugly shortcut, but, yes, Boko Haram are essentially Africa’s Taliban. They grew out of being a nationalist movement, but have become a salafist jihadist group with the aim of establishing a sharia state. And, like the Taliban, they oppose the education of muslim women, particularly if that education has westerly influence. Hence, their name, Boko Haram, which in the  Hausa language translates: western education is sinful or forbidden. And, hence, the attacks on schools, the murder of school children, and most recently, the kidnap of the girls, in the school at Chibok, in Buorno State.

Why are they in the news?

Well, of late, Boko Haram have been very much on the offensive. A bomb in a bus station, in Abuja, the capital, 2 weeks ago, killed more than 75 people. They’ve attacked government buildings and police stations. They’ve attacked churches. They’ve conducted assassinations. They’ve even attacked mosques and as we know, schools, too. In February, more than 50 school children were  murdered in cold blood, and in the neighboring state of Borno, we’ve had this kidnap of what we now know as 270 girls, of whom 220 are still missing.

Now, the start of these Boko Haram guerrilla attacks suggests diminished capability. They are not very sophisticated attacks. However, they have succeeded in instilling terror in the civilian population. And, just as importantly, for Boko Haram, they’ve served a hugely undermined public confidence in the government of Goodluck Jonathan.

What is the latest we know on the kidnapped girls?

Over the last couple of days, I have been talking regularly to an intermediary  who has long experience in dealing with Boko Haram and has been in regular contact with with members of the group holding these girls. The news is that, although he feels that a deal could still be engineered, by which some or even all of the girls could be released, and there’s a willingness on the part of the captors to do so, the girls have been dispersed into smaller groups. And some of them have even been moved across borders into neighboring Cameroon, and into Chad, where they’ve been reportedly married off for very small bride prices.This makes a release very difficult, indeed, to make happen. Now, the intermediary believes it still could. But, the group has warned him that any attempt at this stage by the Nigerian military to intervene will result in the deaths of these girls. The trouble is, of course, that the longer this is left to go on, the more difficult it becomes to solve the problem, and the worst it gets.

VIDEO by  Channel 4 News Jonathan Miller reporting

 

 

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