Nigerian Girls' Kidnappers Boko Haram Strike Once More, Killing 300 People In A Remote Village
On Monday, approximately 300 people were killed in a suspected Boko Haram terrorist attack in Gamboru Ngala, a remote village at the Nigeria-Camroon border. State officials noted that the attack, which set powerful flames throughout the town, was instigated by Islamic militants believed to be members of Boko Haram, the extremist group responsible for kidnapping more than 270 Nigerian girls in mid-April. Local newspapers added that the attack lasted for 12 hours, with many homes and businesses razed to the ground.
Witnesses told CNN that a band of militants threw bombs and launched rocket-propelled grenades as they made their way through an open-air marketplace. Reports allege that the militants also attacked a police station, and set fire to buildings where people were attempting to take shelter. While the motive for the most recent attack is still unknown, state officials speculate that it may be a response to the international community's initiative to rescue the kidnapped girls.
The girls have been held captive by Boko Haram rebels since April 14, and between eight and 11 more girls were abducted last Sunday, according to U.N. reports. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that a team of U.S. specialists will travel to Nigeria to assist the government in its search for the girls.
Boko Haram, which translates to "Western education is sinful," is based in northeastern Nigeria, Camroon and Niger. The group was founded in 2002 by the late Mohammed Yusuf with the mission to establish an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law. Amnesty International says 1,500 people have been killed by Boko Haram attacks in 2014 alone.
For the last decade, much of the attacks have targeted Nigerian Christians and their houses of worship. Nigeria, which has a population of roughly 170 million, is ethnically and religiously diverse, with a slight Christian majority. A 2011 Pew Research report states that 50.8 percent — 80.5 million people — of the Nigerian population is Christian. It's the largest Christian population in Sub-Saharan Africa, holding a 20-million margin over the heavily Christian Democratic Republic of the Congo.
However, Nigeria has a much larger Muslim population than the other Christian-majority countries in the region (for example, Congo is nearly 96 percent Christian, while Kenya is around 85 percent). The split between Christians and Muslims in the country has fueled terrorists like Boko Haram, who want to ignite a war between the two religious groups.
“When the crisis started, many thought that they were fighting against Christians," Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said in a media chat last Sunday. "But when they also attack Muslim places of worship, it was clear that they were out to cause a war between Christians and their Muslim brothers."
According to The Christian Post, a majority of the abducted schoolgirls are Christian. An Evangelist leader in Chibok, a local government in Borno State where the girls went to school, claimed they were targeted because the area is overwhelmingly Christian. "Why did Boko Haram visit Chibok Local Government? Why didn’t they visit so many other Local Government Girls Secondary Schools in Borno State?” he said.
Located in the country's northeastern corner, Borno State has taken the brunt of numerous Boko Haram attacks in the past. In 2013, President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the region following a brutal massacre in Baga that killed around 200 civilians and destroyed more than 2,000 homes and businesses. It was one of the first times the government took action against Boko Haram since the 2009 uprising, which left almost 1,000 people dead.