Home inContext Boko Haram Violence Escalates in Nigeria

Boko Haram Violence Escalates in Nigeria

Alex Finkelstein

Amnesty International estimates so far this year that Boko Haram-related violence in Nigeria has killed 1,500 people, according to a report released Monday. The Islamist terror group has carried out the majority of the killings, especially against civilians, but Amnesty also reports that Nigerian security forces have also committed human rights violations.

Originally founded in northeast Nigeria in 2002 to impose Sharia Law, Boko Haram carried out its first attack in 2009. The group, whose name translates to ‘Western education is forbidden,’ began widespread, sectarian attacks against Christians in 2010. After bombings and shootings inside schools and police stations, the U.S. State Department officially classified the group as a terrorist organization in November 2013.

Men look at the wreckage of a car following a bomb blast in Abuja last year. The terrorist group Boko Haram was suspected. (Photo: AFP)

Violence escalated over the past month after Boko Haram raided a government barracks on March 14th in an attempt to free nearly 2,000 members imprisoned by Nigerian security forces. Boko Haram is also responsible for a suicide bombing on March 25th that killed eight. Nigerian security forces decided to brutally retaliate and crack down in response to the attempted prison break. Soldiers apparently recaptured 600 detainees and summarily executed many of them without a trial then buried them in mass graves.

The Nigerian military has struggled to handle the asymmetric tactics of Boko Haram; the government’s aggressive use of force has further inflamed sectarian divisions. About 250,000 people have been displaced and nearly three million are affected by the conflict. Nigeria’s government believes education is one of the best ways to combat extremism and has created unity schools, aimed at integrating the two religious groups. However, students are often afraid to go to school, and education reform remains contentious in the capital city of Lagos.