WE CALL THEM TERRORISTS, INSURGENTS, RADICALS, ALQAEDA, ETC, ETC, ETC..JUST SO WE DON’T HAVE TO CALL THEM WHAT THEY REALLY ARE..ISLAMIC MURDERERS. ONCE AGAIN THE WEST GIVES ISLAM A PASS TO KILL CHRISTIANS. WOULDN’T WANT TO CALL IT WHAT IT REALLY IS..WE’D ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists targetting Christians, turning Nigeria into cauldron of religious strife
Peter Goodspeed Jan 6, 2012 – 11:14 PM ET
Afolabi Sotunde / Reuters Files
Christmas Day bombings, including one at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, killed 65 people in Nigeria.
Preaching a theology of chaos and intolerance, the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Boko Haram is threatening to plunge Nigeria into a civil war.
After murdering 504 people last year in church and mosque bombings, drive-by shootings, bank robberies and assaults on police stations and army barracks, the radical Islamists are rapidly becoming known as Africa’s Taliban.
The increasingly sophisticated and deadly attacks include a Christmas bombing campaign of Christian churches that killed 65 people in northern Nigeria and a suicide car-bomb attack on the United Nations’ headquarters in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, that killed 25 people in August.
Thursday, gunmen stormed a church in Gombe, killing six people. On Friday, armed men shot and killed 17 Christians at a house in the northeastern town of Mubi as they mourned the death of a friend the previous evening.
Then late Friday, gunmen killed at least eight people when they opened fire on worshippers at the Christian Apostolic church in downtown Yola, the capital of Adamawa.
Boko Haram has suddenly emerged as one of Africa’s most virulent terrorist threats.
In November, a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on homeland security identified the group as a threat to African stability and U.S. security.
Its members are being trained by al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM, al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate) and have ties to Somalia’s Al-Shabab, the committee concluded.
“The sophistication of its tactics, use of the Internet and its recent attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja all point to a dangerously evolving organization,” it said.
With AQIM operating in Nigeria’s neighbours — Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Algeria — it would only be “natural” for the group to gravitate toward Nigeria, said Paul Lubeck, an expert on the region at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
A member of the clergy guides security forces through the scene of a car bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja, just outside Nigeria’s capital Abuja, on Christmas day.
“They are global jihadists,” he said. “It is automatic that you would look to the largest Muslim state in Africa to expand.”
Before his death last May, Osama bin Laden identified Nigeria, with its sharp Christian-Muslim divide, as a key arena for global sectarian warfare.
Libya’s civil war, which has flooded North Africa with weapons, has also left Nigeria vulnerable.
Boko Haram — Hausa for “Western education is sinful” — was founded in 2002. Members prefer to use its full name, Jama’atul Alhul Sunnah Lidda’wati wal jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad), and have typically demanded the creation of an Islamic state and the implementation of sharia law throughout Nigeria.
Its first leader was Mohammed Yusuf, an imam who claimed education “spoils the belief in one God,” and the group focused on attacking government institutions in Nigeria’s northern provinces and challenging the secularism enshrined in Nigeria’s post-colonial constitution.
Centred on the Muslim-dominated north, the poorest region, Boko Haram draws on a vast pool of unschooled, unskilled and unemployed young people who are disenchanted with their country’s poverty, regional disparities and reputation for corruption.
“The emergence of Boko Haram signifies the maturation of long-festering extremist impulses that run deep in the social reality of Northern Nigeria,” wrote Chris Ngwodo, a Nigerian analyst.
“But 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.”
Operating from Maiduguri, capital of Borno state in northeastern Nigeria, near the border with Chad, Cameroon and Niger, Boko Haram preached a doctrine of withdrawal and saw Nigeria as an illegitimate, non-Islamic state.
Under Mr. Yusuf, its traditional targets were police stations, army barracks, banks, churches, schools and beer halls. It carried out targeted assassinations of religious leaders and politicians who disagreed with it and regularly waged civil disobedience campaigns.
In 2009, when Boko Haram refused to follow a new motorcycle helmet law, members clashed with police. The conflict rapidly escalated into an armed uprising that resulted in the deaths of more than 800 people, including the extra-judicial killing of Mr. Yusuf, who was captured and filmed being stripped by police, before later being found shot dead, allegedly after trying to escape.
Weakened by the police crackdown, with most of its leaders in exile, Boko Haram lay dormant for nearly a year until it exploded back on the scene in December 2010 with bombings of churches.
The terrorist resurgence — which included last August’s attack on the UN, a twin bombing of Nigeria Police headquarters in Abuja and a prison break in Bauchi that freed more than 700 inmates — demonstrated a new level of coordination and expertise with explosives and marked a major turning point in Boko Haram’s philosophy.
“They’ve changed to focus on a more familiar jihadi world view that wants change in the country and sees itself as part of a global struggle,” said Greg Barton, director of the Center for Islam & the Modern World at Australia’s Monash University.
“They’ve made links with Al-Shabab in Somalia and with [AQIM] in Algeria. So they’ve broadened their list of aims. It means it’s almost impossible to negotiate with them.”
General Carter Ham, head of the U.S.’s Africa Command, says there are signs Boko Haram and AQIM have tried to establish a “loose partnership” with Al-Shabab and are coordinating and synchronizing their efforts.
A security barrier marks the scene of a car bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja.
In November, Abdelkader Messahel, Algeria’s deputy foreign minister, said Boko Haram has become an al-Qaeda offshoot.
“We have no doubts that coordination exists between Boko Haram and al-Qaeda,” he said. “The way both groups operate and intelligence reports show that there is co-operation.”
Still, little of real substance is known about the current version of Boko Haram. The sect’s leader is believed to be Abubakar bin Muhammad Shekau, a former deputy of Mr. Yusuf, but there are rumours it has split into at least three different organizations.
In July, a group calling itself the Yusufiya Islamic Movement began distributing pamphlets in northern Nigeria that criticized Boko Haram for carrying out a false holy war and being infiltrated by “people with evil motives.”
Jean Herskovits, a history professor at State University of New York’s Purchase College, said “there is no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today.”
“Evidence suggests instead, that while the original core of the group remains active, criminal gangs have adopted the name Boko Haram to claim responsibility for attacks when it suits them,” she said.
After the Christmas bombings of churches in Borno, a self-proclaimed spokesman for Boko Haram, who identifies himself as Abul Qaqa, gave all Christians in northern Nigeria three days to leave the region or face more attacks.
Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian President, has declared a state of emergency in portions of four northern states and sent two army brigades to the region to fight Boko Haram.
“They started as a harmless group [and] have now grown cancerous,” he said. “Nigeria, being the body, they want to kill it.”
The United States has begun training Nigerian troops in counter-terrorism techniques, while France and Britain are offering military support and intelligence sharing.
Still, Africa’s most populous state and biggest oil producer remains mired in the disappointment and despair that originally gave rise to Boko Haram 10 years ago.
While declaring a state of emergency in the north, Mr. Jonathan’s government also triggered violent national protests over the New Year with a decision to eliminate a 38-year-old fuel subsidy that was costing the government US$7.5-billion a year.
The immediate result was a 150% hike in gasoline prices and angry calls by Nigeria’s two major labour unions for a nationwide strike starting Monday.
Seventy per cent of Nigerians live on less than $2 a day and are unwilling or unable to pay nearly $1 a litre for gas.
Long tormented by division and disunity, with 350 ethnic groups speaking 250 languages, Nigeria is rapidly becoming a cauldron of religious and ethnic strife on a continent that has just begun to experience the full impact of Islamist radicalism.
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