Boko Haram’s penchant for stealing and killing schoolchildren may be more than even Al Qaeda can condone. As social media activists and even First Lady Michelle Obama spread the #bringbackourgirls hashtag, commenters on Islamist radical sites are worried that their Nigerian brothers might be doing too much and too violently.
But Boko Haram wasn’t always known for such brash civilian attacks, according to Paul Lubeck, a professor at University of California, Santa Cruz professor, who spoke with the New York Times.
“They generated a lot of support because they didn’t kill many innocent people,” Professor Lubeck said.
That changed in July, 2009, after about 70 Boko Haram fighters armed with guns and hand grenades attacked a mosque and police station in the town of Bauchi. About 55 people were killed in the battle, according to an American diplomatic cable about the episodes that was later released by WikiLeaks.
As we reported yesterday, this action drew a crackdown on Boko Haram by Nigerian security forces that resulted in 700 casualties including the organization’s initial leader Mohamed Yusuf. Yusef was taken by the security forces, according to the Times, paraded in front of cameras and then publicly executed outside of a police station in front of a crowd. Yusef’s death ratcheted up the group’s taste for violence and their larger relevance in terrorist circles.
After the crackdown, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an Algerian Islamist insurgency group who’ve professed a connection to Al Qaeda, offered support to the remaining members of Boko Haram and may have trained them in their Algerian camps. After regrouping, the organization returned to Nigeria ready to fight and anyone could be a target under the direction of new leader, Abubakar Shekau.
They executed drive-by’s on motorcycles, which are now banned in their active areas, and fired from artillery trucks plucked from the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Still, it’s unclear whether Boko Haram is actually affiliated with Al Qaeda because they recruit and act locally, says Professor Lubeck.
“To say that it was part of the international Islamist conspiracy distorts things. There is no systematic or strategic connection.”
But what is clear, their tactics aren't sitting well with their peers.
"There is news that they attacked a girls' school!" another astonished poster wrote on the same jihadi forum, suggesting delicately that Boko Haram may perhaps be killing too many noncombatants instead of armed enemies. He prayed that God would "hold them steady to the path" of Islam.
Over in political circles, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in hot water for her refusal to put Boko Haram on the U.S. terrorist shit list back in 2011 when they bombed the U.N. headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.
Now, Clinton’s joined the #bringbackourgirls campaign. In a chat with Robin Roberts on Wednesday, she called the kidnapping “abominable, it’s criminal, it’s an act of terrorism and it really merits the fullest response possible, first and foremost from the government of Nigeria.”
If Clinton had added Boko Haram to the U.S. shit list, according to the Daily Beast, it would've allowed the U.S. law and intelligence agencies to use all the tricks of the Patriot Act against them. In addition, their listing would've outlawed Americans from doing business with their organization and "encouraged" other international countries to do the same.
Elsewhere a writer named Jumoke wrote on the site Compare Afrique, that while the western social media push to #bringbackourgirls is sweet, it’s problematic because she says it encourages a resurgence of colonial militarism and American meddling in African affairs.
Here’s the thing though, when you pressure Western powers, particularly the American government to get involved in African affairs and when you champion military intervention, you become part of a much larger problem. You become a complicit participant in a military expansionist agenda on the continent of Africa. This is not good.
You might not know this, but the United States military loves your hashtags because it gives them legitimacy to encroach and grow their military presence in Africa. ...
Although most of these activities are covert, we do know that the U.S. military has had a destabilizing effect in a few countries. For example, a New York Times article confirmed that the man who overthrew the elected Malian government in 2012 was trained and mentored by the United States between 2004 and 2010. Further, a U.S. trained battalion in the Democratic Republic of Congo was denounced by the United Nations for committing mass rapes. ...
Knowing this, you can understand my apprehension for President Obama’s decision. As the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole said yesterday, the involvement of the U.S. government and military will only lead to more militarism, less oversight, and less democracy.
Still, without the #bringbackourgirls campaign, which was drawn from Nigerian protestors themselves, it seems Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan would've continued to do nothing to retrieve his constituents' children. So, what's the alternative?
It's unclear, but ultimately, someone somehow please just bring these kids back home as soon as possible.
Photo Credit: AP Images.