AS OUTRAGE grows about the kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian school girls, it is the first time that many people are hearing of the extremist group Boko Haram.
But the organisation has a long history of terrorising people, here are some shocking facts about them:
1. “Western education is a sin”
This translation of Boko Haram’s name has been criticised for not being entirely accurate but is a rough interpretation.
A strict reading of the name suggests that opposition is not necessarily a blanket hatred of western education but is targeted specifically at this type of education being taught in Nigeria.
However, kidnapping and threatening to sell off young girls as slaves seems to indicate that opposition is more than just a protest about the “foreign” school around the corner.
In a video that claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, a representative of the group flanked by militants holding AK-47s, says: “I said western education should end.”
He then said he planned to sell the girls.
“Allah has instructed me to sell them. They are his property and I will carry out his instructions.”
Local residents reportedly gave the group the name Boko Haram, its official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”.
2. It’s not just western education that is forbidden
Boko Haram wants to create a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law. It reportedly believes that Muslims should not participate in political or social activities associated with Western society.
This can include voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers, or receiving a secular education.
3. They kidnap and rape women
Long before they grabbed international headlines for abducting the teenage girls, they were known for kidnapping women in the street or from farms.
“Now they are picking up women anywhere and using them to satisfy themselves,” a commander with the anti-Boko Haram group, the Civilian Joint Task Force, told Human Rights Watch in 2013.
“Some of the girls we found hiding when we invaded Boko Haram camps around Sambisa [Forest] told us they were dragged into vehicles when hawking on the street.
“When we return them home, their families are too ashamed to keep them because nobody will marry a girl who has been raped or has a child for these bad people.”
4. They think it’s OK to enslave women
“Girls, you should go and get married,” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video.
“There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”
Some women have reportedly been sold into marriage with the militants for as little as $12.
Almost half the girls in Nigeria marry before they reach 18 years of age, according to figures from the United Nations Girls Education Initiative.
Many struggle to get an education, only 66 per cent aged between 15 and 24 years old can read and write.
5. They believe in violence
Boko Haram has been carrying out terrorist attacks for years and the International Crisis Group estimates that the group has killed more than 4000 people in Nigeria in four years.
A religious compound was built in 2002 for the group and included a mosque and Islamic school.
Many poor Muslim families enrolled their children at the school so they could get an education but it was instead used as a recruiting ground for jihadis.
The group is known for using gunmen on motorbikes to kill police, politicians and anyone else who does not support the group.
The group has killed clerics from other Muslim groups and a Christian preacher.
It has been involved in bombings on Christmas Day in 2011, a New Year’s Eve attack in 2010, attacks during the inauguration of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 and further bombings on the UN headquarters in Abuja.
7. They hate Christians
In a YouTube video the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau said their targeting of Christians was revenge for previous attacks on Muslims.
“Either you are with us, I mean, we are Muslims who are following solid footsteps, or you’re with Obama, Francois Hollande, George Bush ... Ban Ki-moon and his people generally, any unbeliever ... kill, kill, kill,” Shekau says.
“This war is against Christians, I mean Christians generally.”
Boko Haram's leader says war is against Christians
A US Congressional report released in November 2011 warned that the group was an “emerging threat” to the US and its interests.
It suggested that Boko Haram could have formed ties with al-Qaeda linked groups in Africa, but the group has denied this.
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