Tuesday January 13, 2015

Boko Haram largely ignored but some say a threat on par with ISIS

A man holds a placard that reads 'Je suis Charlie, n'oublions pas les victimes de Boko Haram' (I am Charlie, let's not forget the victims of Boko Haram) as people gather outside the French embassy in Abidjan. (Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images)

A man holds a placard that reads 'Je suis Charlie, n'oublions pas les victimes de Boko Haram' (I am Charlie, let's not forget the victims of Boko Haram) as people gather outside the French embassy in Abidjan. (Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images)

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When Abubakr Shenkau's Boko Haram followers killed an estimated 2000 people in 16 communities last week, few of us barely noticed. Our attention riveted instead on acts of terror in Paris. Today we look into that collective blind spot when it comes to Nigeria's terror and ask about the parallels between ISIS and Boko Haram.

nigeria violence

Children stand near the scene of an explosion in Potiskum, Nigeria, Monday (Adamu Adamu/Associated Press)

'It's a monumental tragedy, it has saddened all of Nigeria. We seem to be helpless because if we could stop Boko Haram we would have done it right away. But they continue to attack and kill and capture territories and build with such impunity means they seem to have the upper hand.' - Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, telling the BBC about the latest attack on his country, by Boko Haram

Across Nigeria's north, Boko Haram militants have been carrying out increasingly brazen, callous, attacks.

A massacre in the town of Baga left at least 150 dead last week, and was followed by an attack on an army base inside neighbouring Cameroon.

And just this past weekend at least 23 people were killed by suicide bombs, strapped to young girls. The youngest girl was ten. Now Archbishop Kaigama is pleading for help from the wider world.

Boko Haram currently controls some 50-thousand square kilometres of land in northern Nigeria -- That's a swath of territory roughly the size of Belgium, or Costa Rica. And the group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, says his goal is to establish a "caliphate" in the area ... just like the Islamic State, or ISIS, in the Middle East.

For more on Boko Haram, and how it compares with ISIS:

Imad Mesdoua is an analyst with Africa Matters Ltd., a consultancy that provides risk assessment for firms or governments operating in Africa. He was in London.
Sola Tayo is an Associate Fellow with the Africa Programme at the UK think-tank Chatham House. She was also in London.

Max Abrahms is a terrorism expert with Northeastern University and he was in Boston.

Imad Mesdoua is an analyst with Africa Matters Ltd., a consultancy that provides risk assessment for firms or governments operating in Africa. He was in London.

Sola Tayo is an Associate Fellow with the Africa Programme at the UK think-tank Chatham House. She was also in London.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien, Howard Goldenthal and Idella Sturino.