On the Boko Haram Attack in Nigeria

[Content Note: Terrorism; death.]

Yesterday, another explosive device placed in a market in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola detonated, killing at least 32 people and wounding at least 80 others.

The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has not yet claimed responsibility, but they will. Detonating bombs in markets is one of Boko Haram's signature strategies, which they use in order to maximize harm, death, and devastation.

If someone in the West has heard of Boko Haram at all, it is probably in association with their mass kidnapping of girls. But they routinely terrorize northern Nigeria and bordering areas with bombings, mass shootings, kidnappings, and associated war crimes. Though they are a distinct group from IS, they have pledged their fealty to the better-known group: "The suspected perpetrators, Boko Haram, have pledged allegiance to Islamic State and killed thousands of people in the northeastern part of the country during the last six years. The militant group is fighting for a state that would strictly adhere to Sharia law."

Their terrorist attacks were also, over the course of last year, more deadly than IS' terrorist attacks, although IS killed many more people in combat:
Fatalities from terrorism are at a record high now with just two groups, Boko Haram and Islamic State responsible for half of them, a new report showed. The Nigerian militants kill more people than their Iraqi-Syrian allies.

Two terrorist groups were responsible for over a half of the killings in 2014 – Nigeria-based Boko Haram and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), which aims to expand its influence from the powerbase in Iraq and Syria globally. Together they were responsible for 51 percent of all global fatalities in 2014 claimed by any group, and almost 40 percent of all fatalities, according to the Global Terrorism Index published by the Institute for Economic and Peace (IEP).

The Nigerian jihadists, who pledged allegiance to IS in March 2015, killed more people than their fellow Islamists, claiming 6,644 lives compared to 6,073. Nigeria accordingly experienced a staggering 300 percent rise in terrorism deaths in 2014, although other militant groups take partial blame for the increase. In particular the Fulani militants killed 1,229 in Nigeria.

IS killed more people in combat than in acts of terrorism in 2014. It was responsible for at least 20,000 battlefield deaths over the year in clashes with various state and non-state combatants.
Over the past year and a half, I have covered 30 separate attacks and multiple kidnappings by Boko Haram. I have noted the disparity in the coverage between the coverage of terrorist attacks in the West and the terrorism being perpetrated by Boko Haram, at one point observing that a bombing in which at least 17 people were killed warranted only two sentences from Reuters, and that was still more that most major news outlets gave it.

Like IS, Boko Haram's primarily targets and victims are other Muslims. They have killed thousands of people, injured thousands of people, kidnapped thousands of people, and displaced thousands of people.

And their latest attack, in which dozens died and scores were injured, has received virtually no news coverage in the mainstream Western media.

Because they are of no imminent risk to "us."

Because they explicitly target the women and children of a population mostly comprised of other black Muslims.

I feel very angry and very helpless to do anything meaningful in support of the Nigerian and neighboring people being terrorized on a daily basis by this despicable lot. I don't know what the US government, or any other government, should do to help; how to intervene or whether to intervene at all.

All I know is that not paying attention, not caring, abets Boko Haram. They flourish in a vacuum of concern.

Nigerians under siege have asked us to raise awareness. To talk about the grievous harm being done to them.

It is not enough, but it is what I can do: I am witnessing what is happening. I see what Boko Haram is doing. I am writing and talking about it. I take up space in solidarity with the people they terrorize, because their lives matter.

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