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Top 10 Boko Haram Facts - WMNews Ep. 11

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Angela Fafard This Nigeria-based terrorist group is using fear and violence in its bid to establish an Islamic Caliphate and eliminating Western influence. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from that breaks down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about Boko Haram.

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Script written by Angela Fafard

Top 10 Boko Haram Facts

#10: What Is Boko Haram?
The History

With an official name that translates roughly to means “People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad,” Boko Haram is a militant, extremist Islamic group grounded primarily in the northeastern region of Nigeria, with their presence also felt in Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Locals bestowed the nickname Boko Haram on them, and it loosely translates to “Western education is forbidden.” Founded in 2002 with the aim of building an Islamic state, the group was fairly low-key until 2009 when it became more militant and more violent roughly around the time its founder – Mohammed Yusuf – was executed by Nigeran police. Boko Haram’s focus has since grown in size and scope, and several countries have responded by labeling it a terrorist organization and an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

#9: What Is the Current Situation?
The Country

By 2014, Nigeria had the highest Gross Domestic Product of any country in Africa, making one of – if not the – richest nation on the continent, with its natural resources and oil helping to push its GDP to a worth of $510 billion. Plus, the country is home to an estimated 185 million, making it Africa’s largest country by population as well. However, wealth distribution remains unequal in Nigeria, leaving a huge divide between rich and poor, north and south. The resulting conflict, coupled with the increasing violent attacks by Boko Haram, have forced upwards of one million Nigerians to flee the country, with most seeking refuge in neighboring countries like Cameroon. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s government has also faced widespread criticism, especially with regards to his government’s handling of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping that occurred in April 2014. The theory of the Nigerian government’s corruption was corroborated in 2013 by the U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013, which stated that the country was home to “massive, widespread, pervasive corruption [which] affected all levels of government and the security forces.”

#8: Who Is the Leader of Boko Haram?
The Myth

Following the death of founder Mohammed Yusuf, leadership of the movement shifted to his nxt-in-command, Abubakar Shekau. This hardline militant has spearheaded the growth the group’s operations in scope and direction, leading to thousands of deaths and hundreds of kidnappings. On more the one occasion, the leader has been reported dead by local media following fights between Boko Haram and military forces, only for him to resurface later in videos where he brags of his invincibility and mocks the government’s attempts to kill him. However, some media sources maintain that Shekau is, in fact, dead and body doubles have been used to maintain the myth that he is un-killable. Whether or not that is true, the U.S. State Department has been offering a reward of $7 million since 2013 for information leading to the capture of Shekau.

#7: What Is the Group’s Ultimate Goal?
The Islamic State / Source of Income

The ultimate goal of Boko Haram is to carve out an Islamic Caliphate in Nigeria, thereby establishing Sharia or Islamic law throughout the land. Because of their disdain for western civilization and their belief that that sort of thought promotes secularism, many of their targets have been students, as they also hold that schools brainwash students to the western way of thought. The group has two major allies in fellow jihadist terrorist groups al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – or as it’s better known, ISIL or ISIS. To fund their activities and add to their already huge stores of weaponry, Boko Haram engages in various black market activities, accepts backing from international backers and takes advantage of their links to other Middle Eastern groups. Not only that, but they’re also capitalizing on their kidnappings by selling people as slaves or with he ransom demands. All of these sources make it very difficult to cut off Boko Haram’s funding, and therefore its power.

#6: How Has Africa Reacted to This Threat?
State of Emergency

In May 2013, Nigerian President Jonathan extended the already-established state of emergency to further cover the northeastern region of the country, to include the states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. In addition, various military operations attempted to crack the group’s stranglehold on the region. The tactic was an attempt to curb the violent attacks in these regions, but it seemed to have little to no effect on quelling the Islamic militants efforts, and in fact resulted in even higher tensions.

#5: Why Did They Kidnap a Group of Female Students?
The Kidnapping

Boko Haram truly got the attention of international media in April 2014, when 276 girls were kidnapped from their school in the middle of the night in the town of Chibok in Borno State, citing the belief that girls should not be educated and should instead be married off. Though approximately 50 escaped over the next few weeks, the rest of the girls remained with the group. In October of that year, it was announced that an agreement had been reached, which would see the kidnapped girls returned home; however, shortly thereafter, a Boko Haram video surfaced wherein Abubakar Shekau stated that the girls had been converted to Islam, married off to members of the terrorist group, and used as slaves – shattering the idea that the girls would be released.

#4: How Has the World Reacted?
The Power of Social Media

The kidnapping of the girls from Chibok sparked worldwide outrage and launched a social media campaign, with the twitter handle #BringBackOurGirls becoming a symbol of support. The campaign drew millions of supporters, including U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Countries around the world pledged aid and support in terms of funds, specialized teams, intelligence experts and more.

#3: Why Did Boko Haram Target Baga?
The Attack

In what has been called Boko Haram’s worst attacks to date, the town of Baga in the state of Borno became the target of a rash of mass killings from January 3-7, 2015. It’s believed that the town was targeted due to its tactical significance to Boko Haram, as the final town in that region still controlled by the Nigerian government and a site of vital military stations. Nigerian government forces attempted to fend off the attack on the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) base, but after hours of intense fighting they were forced to escape with the citizens. Boko Haram then ran rampant, invading the town, setting fire to buildings, and causing significant damage to the area.

#2: What Was the Aftermath of the Baga Massacre?
The Response

In the days following the attack on Baga, international media was largely occupied with coverage of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, and therefore exposure to the Nigerian news story was limited. It was only after satellite imagery was provided that a more complete image of the aftermath was revealed: in Baga and neighboring towns, over 3,700 structures were completely razed. Reports varied wildly regarding the extent of the damage and casualties, but many sources claim that over 2,000 people were killed in this attack alone, although the Nigeria government places the number close to 150.

#1: How Might This End?
The Future

Weeks after the 2015 attacks on the city of Baga, it appeared as though Boko Haram had continued their rampage as they attacked the city of Monguno, which was home to a large military base. Insurgents continued their advancement to the city of Maiduguri, and Amnesty International warned that that situation put hundreds of thousands of civilians at “grave risk.” Theories at this time suggested that the group’s plans might see them move further into neighboring countries like Cameroon and Chad in a bid to see their dream of an Islamic Caliphate come to fruition. Only time will tell if the increased international focus on the Boko Haram problem will prove helpful.

Did these facts surprise you? To vote for which news story is covered next, head over to WatchMojo.comsuggest, and be sure to hit that subscribe button for more newsworthy top 10s published every week.

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