Hours after an attack killed at least 21 young soccer fans watching a televised World Cup match, Nigerian security forces announced they had arrested a senior commander and more than 485 members of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram that is terrorizing the country.
He was arrested when police apprehended a convoy of suspected terrorists in the southern state of Abia. “Police refuse to disclose the identity of the militant,” reported Ludovica Iaccino for International Business Times. “Boko Haram mainly targets villages in the north. The discovery of a senior Boko Haram militant in a southern state stoked fears that the insurgents are expanding their range.”
The slain soccer fans – reportedly mostly children and young soccer players – had gathered at an outdoor video screen to watch the World Cup’s Brazil v Mexico match in the tournament’s opening round. A bomb went off, apparently concealed in a pedicab-rickshaw.
Boko Haram - which means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language - made headlines worldwide after the mass abduction of nearly 300 Christian school girls last April. The terrorist group, which is officially the Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad or “Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad,” has paraded the girls in front of video cameras and bragged that they will be sold into slavery.
The group was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002 and seeks a "pure" Islamic state ruled by Islamic “shari’a” law and halting westernization – particularly the education of girls – in Nigeria, which is officially half-and-half Christian and Muslim. He died in police custody in 2009.
The group primarily attacks churches, schools, bus stations, public gatherings and other undefended “soft targets” where there will be no armed resistance – resulting in more than 12,000 deaths in Nigeria between 2002 and 2013, according to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in an interview with Nigeria’s Premium Times newspaper. At least 90,000 Nigerians have been displaced from their homes due to the group’s violence.
The Nigerian government is advising people to avoid gathering in public spaces to watch the World Cup, fearing that more deadly attacks might occur.
The BBC reported a hospital worker in Yobe's capital city Damaturu, where the blast took place, as saying truckloads of children and young athletes were being bought in for emergency treatment. Human Rights Watch says Boko Harām sometimes uses child soldiers, including 12-year-olds – often the children of victims kidnapped and forced into service – often heavily drugged during raids.
“Since 2009, we have had to contend with many attacks and killings, which have now developed into a full-scale war targeting the stability and integrity of our Nation. Boko Haram has launched a vicious guerrilla-style campaign against the government and the people of Nigeria. It has attacked schools, slaughtered students in their dormitories, destroyed villages, communities and government infrastructure and has wreaked havoc on the economic and social life of our people,” President Jonathan told the Times.
“The group is hostile to democracy. It uses every means to indoctrinate its members; its ultimate objective is to destabilize the country, and take over Nigeria.”
“With every attack by Islamist militants in northern Nigeria, Daniel Ayuba relives a nightmare,” reported Faith
Karimi and Vladimir Duthiers for CNN. When attackers planted a bomb near a car wash in Maiduguri, the explosion shattered Ayuba’s leg and left 80 percent of his body covered in shrapnel. It also flattened cars and motorbikes, and left an entire neighborhood smoldering.”
"I looked around me and there was fire burning, houses blown up and dead people," said Ayuba, whose scars are still visible on much of his body. "I kept on crying, crying for someone to come help me, but no one would come."
“Ayuba is among a fast-growing list of Boko Haram victims,” reported CNN. “The Islamist militants have intensified their wave of terror targeting the north and beyond. And every attack gets more brazen.
“They swoop in on foot, motorcycles and car convoys. They hurl bombs and pull guns with lightning speed.
When Ayuba heard the news of the schoolgirls’ kidnapping, “I started crying," Ayuba told CNN. "I said to myself, 'What's wrong with these people?'"
Publication date: June 19, 2014