Boko Haram When Americans think of terrorists, they nearly always think of al-Qaeda or ISIS. But there is a group of bloodthirsty terrorists headquartered in Nigeria that have killed far more than either of those organizations: Boko Haram, which means “western education is forbidden.”
Boko Haram was founded in 2000 to overthrow the Nigerian government and usher in an Islamic state. The group frequently uses bombings, assassinations and kidnappings, with female victims being sold into sex slavery.
In 2009, Boko Haram carried out a series of attacks on police stations and other government buildings. This led to shoot-outs in the streets where hundreds of Boko Haram supporters were killed, and thousands of residents fled the city. Nigeria’s security forces eventually seized the group’s headquarters, capturing its fighters and killing their leader Mohammed Yusuf. His body was shown on state television, and the security forces declared Boko Haram finished.
However, Boko Haram simply regrouped under a new leader, Abubakar Shekau, and stepped up their insurgency. In tactics and results, the menace from Boko Haram has actually worsened. They have used children as suicide bombers, often drugging them against their will to act as explosives. One in five suicide attacks are done by children. According to UNICEF, 1.3 million children have been forced from their homes across four separate countries: Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria.
In 2014, Boko terrorists raided a school in the town of Chibok, kidnapping more than 200 girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night. Boko Haram believed that the girls had offended Allah by being Christian and by having the nerve to go to school. Therefore, they reasoned, Allah would want them to be enslaved. The girls, many of whom are still unaccounted for, were sold as sex slaves, forced to convert and marry Boko Haram fighters or killed.
In January 2015, Boko Haram burned 16 villages to the ground, leaving piles of bodies so deep that survivors couldn’t count them all. That same month, Boko Haram attacked the Nigerian town of Baga, killing an estimated 2,000 civilians, making it one of the largest terrorist atrocities in world history, perhaps second only to 9/11 in the United States.