On April the 14th, masked gunmen entered an all girls school in Nigeria, kidnapping 276 children and forcing them into the back of trucks. This week, video has emerged showing around 130 of the young girls, alive and seemingly well in an unknown location. Although it is unclear when the video was filmed, it shows around half of the kidnapped girls sitting together, wearing full length cloaks. Three young girls speak on the video, explaining that they have been converted to Islam, followed by a speech from leader of the extremist Islamist group, Abubakar Shekau. The Boko Haram group are responsible for countless atrocities in northeast Nigeria, but the plight of the stolen girls has captured the world. So, who are Boko Haram, and what do they want with the 276 kidnapped girls?
The Boko Haram group, which translates to ‘Western education is forbidden’, were established in 2002, and want to create an entirely Islamist state in the north of Nigeria. They denounce the government completely, and since they formed, have killed over 4,000 people and displaced more than 500,000. Despite the fact that the group has had alleged links with the Nigerian government in the past, they openly call out failures of the government and denounce it’s corruption.
In recent years, Boko Haram has targeted Christians, Muslims, schools, bars, hospitals, local leaders and many more in planned terror attacks. Although President Goodluck Jonathan sent more troops into Boko Haram stronghold areas of Nigeria, pushing many out of towns and cities, they still terrorise large parts of the country. Child soldiers, kidnappings, rapes and bombings have all been linked to the group, who are led by their charismatic but violent leader, Abubakar Shekau.
…child soldiers, kidnapping, rapes and bombings have all been linked to the group…
On the day the girls were kidnapped, Boko Haram had already detonated a bomb in a bus station which killed 71 people. In the week running up to the kidnapping, it’s thought that the group were responsible for the deaths of 64 other people in the north of Nigeria. In the days after the kidnapping, mixed, confusing reports surfaced about the girls. Some reports said only 100 girls had been taken, others said that all but eight girls had been released. When the group released their first video stating that they were indeed responsible for the abductions and planned to sell the girls on as child brides, the world began to take notice.
#BringBackOurGirls was soon trending on social networking sites and both the UK and US agreed to send teams to Nigeria to advise in negotiations with the extremist group. The kidnapped girls make excellent bait for the group, who have killed another 125 people since the kidnapping. The most recent video shows the leader of the group stating that the girls will be released in return for the Boko Haram members who are currently imprisoned. At the moment, although this seems like the only option in returning the girls safely to their families, it is unlikely that the Nigerian government would ever agree to such a thing.
…mixed, confusing reports surfaced about the girls…
Almost a month later, and with no clear idea of where the girls are or when they will be returned to their families, all that is left is a waiting game as the government and Boko Haram continue their face off.