Terrorist Group Targeted in Search
for Hundreds of Kidnapped Schoolgirls
It is a parent’s worst nightmare: Your child goes to school, never to return home.
Scores of Nigerians are living that horrific reality after nearly 238 schoolgirls were abducted, allegedly by Boko Haram, under the cover of darkness on April 14. Of the hundreds of girls herded into vehicles, only 43 have escaped.
And as their parents wait and hope, the government is grappling with an Islamist terror group that has gotten more brazen.
Today, six U.S. military advisers arrived in Nigeria to help in the search for the kidnapped girls, U.S. military officials said.
The advisers will join a team of U.S. and British officials already in Nigeria, helping find the girls, planning rescue efforts and devising strategies to subdue the terror group Boko Haram.
About 60 U.S. officials have been on the ground since before the kidnappings as part of counterterrorism efforts with Nigeria, a senior U.S. administration official said. They have been holding meetings, getting resources into the country and making assessments with local authorities.
There are no plans to send American combat troops, according to U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, who serves as Pentagon press secretary. The task of recovering the girls appeared to grow more complicated with news that U.S. intelligence shows the 276 girls have been split up.
Kirby said they believe the girls “have been broken up into smaller groups” but declined to detail how officials came to the conclusion. His sentiment has been echoed by others.
Boko Haram’s Wake of Violence
Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, took credit for the mass kidnappings in a video that surfaced this week. His group’s repulsive violence did not end there.
Suspected Boko Haram militants attacked Gamboru Ngala, a remote state capital near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. The attack Monday targeted an area soldiers use as a staging ground in the search for the girls. Some of the at least 310 victims there were burned alive.
The Islamist militants’ name Boko Haram translates to “Western education is a sin” in the local language.
The group especially opposes the education of women. Under its version of Sharia law, women should be at home raising children and looking after their husbands, not at school learning to read and write. It has repeatedly targeted places of learning in deadly attacks that have highlighted its fundamental philosophy against education.
The spate of kidnappings began in May 2013 when Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced in a video that this was part of its latest bloody campaign. The kidnappings, he said, were retaliation for Nigerian security forces nabbing the wives and children of group members. Those kidnapped, he said, would begin a new life as a “servant.”
Not all cases involve kidnappings, however. Gun and bombing attacks on schools have killed hundreds of children in recent years.
Human Rights Abuses and Killings
In November, the militant group abducted dozens of Christian women, most of whom were later rescued by the military deep in a forest in Maiduguri. At the time of their rescue, some were pregnant or had children, and others had been forcibly converted to Islam and married off to their kidnappers.
Rights groups have said Boko Haram has kidnapped girls as young as 12. And the abductions are only getting worse. In the first two months of this year alone, it kidnapped at least 25 girls and women, according to Human Rights Watch.
Some girls and women are kidnapped to take the place of wives, and perform chores and sexual services.
The group is always on the move to escape an intensified crackdown by the government, and members leave their wives behind when they scamper into hideouts deep into the forests.
Those in the recent abduction were both Christian and Muslim students enrolled in secular schools. Where exactly they were taken to isn’t entirely known. The large area where they are believed to be is remote and heavily forested. It’s also close to Cameroon, which means that the captives and captors could slip through the porous borders into nearby countries, including Chad or Niger.
In February, the Nigerian military blamed Boko Haram for killing at least 29 students in an attack on a federal college in Buni Yadi in Yobe state. Another bloody example came last July, when 20 students and a teacher were fatally gunned down in the same state.
Mohammed Yusuf, a charismatic young cleric, founded the group 12 years ago as part of his push for a pure Islamic state in Nigeria. He was killed in 2009, but his group lived on. Boko Haram became more violent after his death as his supporters vowed to strike back.
Links to Al Qaeda
Human Rights Watch estimates that in the past five years, more than 3,000 people have been killed in the violence.
Boko Haram targets include government buildings, police barracks, newspaper offices, village markets, churches and mosques. The U.S. says the militant group has links to the al Qaeda affiliate in West Africa and to extremist groups in Mali. It says its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Africa’s most populous nation, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.
The northeast, where Boko Haram has been most active, is economically depressed and among the least educated regions in Nigeria.
Islamists view the most powerful people there as corrupt, and accuses them siphoning off Nigeria’s considerable natural resources and assets. Despite its vast supply of oil and natural gas, the World Bank says that about 54% of Nigeria’s population can be considered “extremely poor.”
The United States’ team sent to Nigeria to hunt for the kidnapped girls includes law enforcement experts and military advisers. British satellites and advanced tracking capabilities also will be used, and China has promised to provide any intelligence gathered by its satellite network, Nigeria said.
“Clearly, there is danger whenever we send troops almost any place in the world,” U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said.
“But I do think the President is taking the right step here to work with our allies to try to do everything we can to get these girls back to their families in a safe way,” Boehner added in a rare show of solidarity with President Barack Obama.
~Via Google News, Vimeo, Park Hill Multimedia, #BringBackOurGirls