In its latest terror strike, Islamist group Boko Haram has abducted more than a hundred secondary school girls from their boarding dormitory in Chibok, northern Nigeria. Soldiers guarding the teenagers failed to stop armed men from driving away with the girls on Monday night. Some escaped, but the location of most of them is unknown.
Also on Tuesday, in Abuja, an attack on a bus station left 75 people dead and nearly 150 injured, the deadliest of 12 such attacks in the Nigerian capital so far this year, in which Boko Haram has killed almost 800. It has killed thousands of people in its fight to carve out an Islamic state.
The group’s aim is to impose strict sharia law in Nigeria. Its ideas are similar to those of the Afghan Taliban. The name loosely translated means “western education is forbidden”.
Founded in 2002, it hardened its anti-modern jihadism in 2009, also opposing the Muslim establishment.
Nigeria is mostly Muslim in the north and Christian and animist in the south. Boko Haram has made fiefdoms of several northeastern states, defying government control.
The region also has other groups, such as the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine and Mouakaoun Be Dam. Fundamentalism and armed attacks are among their common denominators.
The abduction of the schoolgirls is the first operation of its kind by Boko Haram, although in September last year it attacked an agricultural college in Gujba in the north, killing more than 40 (male) students and teachers. This past February, 59 (male) 8-18-year-olds were killed at a college in Buni Yadi.
Foreigners have been involved as well, like a French family of seven, kidnapped while on holiday in northern Cameroon in 2013, but released. Last November a French priest was taken from his church there, near the Nigerian border, then freed. Less than two weeks ago, a Canadian nun and two Italian priests were abducted and are still missing.
A French military offensive in the north of Mali last year showed the strength of concern over these terrorist groups spreading, and yet the number of incidents has multiplied.
Nigerian officials said troops are searching for the schoolgirls.