They are very well organised, professionally equipped and have no regard for human life: Boko Haram is overrunning Nigeria with a wave of deadly violence not seen in Africa's most populous nation for decades. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the radical Islamic movement is thought to have caused the deaths of at least 935 people between 2009 and the end of January 2012 – more than a quarter of those, 250, in January 2012 alone.
Boko Haram is responsible for carrying out coordinated attacks on the police, intelligence service and foreigners' authority in Kano, simultaneous attacks on several churches at Christmas in 2011, the attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja in late August 2011 and a terror campaign in Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria and neighbouring federal states that has endured for years and is being largely ignored by the international community.
Who are Boko Haram?
The terrorist movement sprung from a deep-rooted aversion to western influence and 're-education', which stretches back to the colonisation of the highly traditional Sokoto caliphate in the early 20th century.
To this day, many inhabitants of the region do not send their children to state schools which they believe to be hostile to tradition – and they refuse for example to have their children immunised against polio, because they suspect that the immunisation programme is part of a western conspiracy.
Influenced by this, the Imam Mohammed Yusuf founded 'Boko Haram' in 2002, a religious movement that built among other things a mosque and a school on its premises. Although the sect did not initially attract attention, Yusuf pursued one goal from the outset: the establishment of a theocracy. Former pupils report that they had been educated to become Jihadists right from the start.
By Marc Engelhardt; Translated by Nina Coon
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