Morphing Into 'Conventional Army,' Boko Haram Poised to 'Explode Any Day, Like ISIS'
WASHINGTON -- As the world's attention is captured by the terrifying determination and bloody modus operandi of the Islamic State, an al-Qaeda affiliate that declared a caliphate last week is sweeping across northeast Nigeria with lightning-quick efficiency and equally brutal means in a bid to break up the most populous nation on the continent.
Boko Haram was on a steady march through Borno state when it overran Gwoza, a city of about 275,000, declaring on Aug. 24 the town now had “nothing to do with Nigeria" -- and declaring it "part of the Islamic caliphate."
Borno state is the region where the kidnapping of Chibok schoolgirls in April touched off the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. The campaign continues in activist circles, but the global attention to the plight of all civilians being terrorized by Boko Haram quickly rose and fell in the scope of a news cycle. At least seven of the girls' parents have since been killed in Boko Haram attacks.
It's this inattentiveness from the world community that's allowing Boko Haram to make such drastic gains while their brothers-in-arms, ISIS, build the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“Boko Haram’s attacks on the people of Nigeria have become more vicious. Their wicked deeds are devastating men, women and children, Christians and Muslims. Everyone is a target for Boko Haram," Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), who has steadily led a daily Twitter campaign for the Chibok schoolgirls, told PJM today.
"Boko Haram has the potential to explode any day, like ISIS. Now we have a major international crisis to deal with in Iraq. The international community must not let this terror continue," Wilson said.
"We still tweet daily, #BringBackOurGirls, for the safe return of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. We have a large and supportive following and our purpose is to show the world that Boko is a major threat."
On the heels of the capture of Gwoza, Boko Haram seized Gamboru Ngala near Lake Chad at the Cameroon border. The terrorist assault was so fierce that, in a historical first for the large West African nation, it drove about 480 Nigerian soldiers into Cameroon. The fight for the strategic location gave Boko Haram a valuable transit point to stock their new caliphate with arms and other necessities.
Boko Haram seized control of Buni Yadi in late August, a city in neighboring Yobe state that signified a westward outpost for the terror group. In February, jihadists slaughtered 59 boys at a boarding school here and torched the educational facilities.
In the first days of September, Boko Haram has gained even more momentum.
The terrorists seized control of Madagli, a town in Adamawa state near the Cameroon border. The Catholic diocese that covers Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states told reporters Thursday that parish priests were fleeing for their lives and churches were being burned to the ground.
“Christian men were caught and beheaded, the women were forced to become Muslims and were taken as wives to the terrorists," said the diocese statement to the media, according to Nigeria's Daily Post. "The houses of Christians that have fled are now occupied by the Haramists. Their cars are used by the terrorists. Some Boko Haram sympathizers around the town showed the terrorists Christian homes, and Christians hiding were also identified and killed. Strict Sharia law has been promulgated, as observed by a woman who luckily escaped from the dead zone."
And the status of Bama, a town in Borno state, was in flux after a Monday assault by Boko Haram, with both the terrorists and government claiming that they held the city. Borno state deputy governor Zanna Mustapha said in a statement, according to Reuters, that the attack "was very unfortunate, but I want to reassure our people that government is on top of the situation."
The Bama assault put Boko Haram just over 40 miles from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state with more than a million residents.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday to attend a regional ministerial meeting on Boko Haram. Before she leaves on Friday, Thomas-Greenfield will sit down with Nigerian government officials to discuss 2015 elections and will meet with alumni from President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, according to the State Department.
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters today that there were no updates from the Boko Haram meeting.
"I believe that she has been in Nigeria for the past couple of days. And certainly addressing the threat of Boko Haram is a part of those discussions," Psaki said. "We can see if there's more of a readout to offer. Sometimes, we deal with time changes and things of that sort."
The Nigeria Security Network, a collaboration of security experts and academics, issued a chilling report Tuesday that warned of no less than the severing of Nigeria -- with Borno state as Boko Haram's new "country."
"Boko Haram have hoisted flags over many of the communities they have overrun, and are reported to be imposing their interpretation of sharia law on the population. They have been accused of beheading Christians and carrying out other atrocities in the affected towns and villages," the report states.