Boko Haram Issue

Militant group Boko Haram released two Italian priests and a Canadian nun it abducted in northern Cameroon in April.

Priests Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri and nun Gilberte Bussier, who had been kidnapped from their parish in Tcherein Cameroon’s Far North region on April 4, were released near the Nigerian border. Security forces escorted them to the military base in Maroua, from where they were flown on board a military aircraft to the capital, Yaounde.

Earlier, suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted more than 60 women and girls, some as young as three, in the latest kidnappings in northeast Nigeria and over two months since more than 200 schoolgirls were seized.

Analysts said the kidnapping, which happened during a raid on Kummabza village in the Damboa district of Borno state, could be an attempt by the Islamist group to refocus attention on its demands for the release of militant fighters.

Boko Haram has indicated that it would be willing to release the 219 schoolgirls that it has held hostage since April 14 in exchange for the freedom of its brothers in arms currently held in Nigerian jails. Nigeria initially refused to sanction any deal but efforts have since been made to open talks with the group, with a possible prisoner swap part of discussions.

On April 14, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 teenaged girls from their dormitories at a boarding school in Chibok, triggering global outrage and an international response to find the students. The Chibok abduction triggered a groundswell of outrage within Nigeria that spread overseas, leading to a social media campaign and international pressure on the government to act.

Security forces denied the kidnappings. Nigeria’s government and military have attracted widespread criticism for their slow response to the abductions of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped April 15. A strategy to rescue the girls appears to have reached an impasse. Nigeria’s military has said it knows where they are but fears their abductors would kill them if any military action is taken.

How is the International Response to Boko Haram

The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions against the leader of Nigeria’s Islamist Boko Haram militant organisation and its splinter group, a month after the powerful UN body designated the dreaded outfit as a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.

The Security Council’s al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee approved the addition of Boko Haram chief Abubakar Mohammed Shekau and the splinter group Ansaru to its list of individuals and entities subject to the targeted financial sanctions and the arms embargo.

As a result of the new listings, any individual or entity that provides financial or material support to Ansaru and Shekau, including the provision of arms or recruits, is eligible to be added to the al-Qaeda Sanctions List and subject to the sanctions measures.

Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian government of human rights abuses after 950 suspected Boko Harām militants died in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force in the first half of 2013. The conflicts have left around 90,000 people displaced. Human Rights Watch states that Boko Harām uses child soldiers, including 12-year-olds.

On 13 November 2013 the United States government designated the group a terrorist organization.

What is Boko Haram?

The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, known by its Hausa name Boko Harām; (meaning “Western education is sin”) is a terrorist organization based in northeastern Nigeria, north Cameroon and Niger. Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002. The organization seeks to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia, putting an end to what it deems Westernization.

The group is known for attacking churches, schools, and police stations. The group also kidnaps western tourists and has assassinated members of the Islamic establishment who have criticized the group. Violence linked to the Boko Harām insurgency has resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths between 2002 and 2013. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2014 claimed that Boko Harām attacks have left at least 12,000 people dead and 8,000 people crippled.

The group exerts influence in the northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Adamawa, Kaduna, Bauchi, Yobe and Kano. The group does not have a clear structure or evident chain of command and has been called “diffuse” with a “cell-like structure” facilitating factions and splits. It is reportedly divided into three factions with a splinter group known as Ansaru. The group’s main leader is Abubakar Shekau. Its weapons expert, second-in-command and arms manufacturer was Momodu Bama.

The Boko Harām leadership has international connections to Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Qa’ida core, Al-Shabab, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s factions, and other militant groups outside Nigeria. Attacks by the group on international targets have so far been limited.

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