Tags: Al-Qaida | Emerging Threats | ISIS/Islamic State | boko haram | islamic terrorists | nigeria

Boko Haram: New Book Analyzes Islamist Terrorists

Image: Boko Haram: New Book Analyzes Islamist Terrorists
A campaign signboard displayed in July by the ruling All Progressives Congressto show its readiness to defeat Boko Haram Islamists in southwest Nigeria. (Getty Images)

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Wednesday, 19 Aug 2015 11:32 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Nearly five years ago, Africa specialist Virginia Comolli began her research on the then-obscure Nigeria-based terrorist group called Boko Haram.

Now, in a poignant yet painful irony of history, Comolli — a Research Fellow for Security and Development at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies — has completed the definitive primer on Boko Haram, which means in the Hausa language "Western civilization is forbidden."

Boko Haram caught the world's attention in April 2014 when more than 200 girls in a secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria, were kidnapped and spirited off by the shadowy terrorists. Soon the whole world was watching, with "Bring Back Our Girls" signs brandished by international figures from Michelle Obama to David Cameron.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan oversaw an extremely costly and eventually fruitless effort to hunt down their kidnappers. Jonathan's failure to rescue the girls and capture their kidnappers, carefully delineated by Comolli, was pivotal to his internationally watched defeat for re-election earlier this year by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, military strongman of Nigeria in the 1980s.

Comolli's book "Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Insurgency" delves into the history of the group that is such a force in Northern Nigeria that neither the police, who are among the chief targets of the government-hating terrorists, nor the army has been able to defeat it.

Although 2002 is most often listed as the year of birth for Boko Haram, author Comolli points out that Islam in Nigeria dates back to the 15th century. By the 19th century, evangelist Usman Dan Fodio had spread his faith throughout northern Nigeria, called for "holy war" against the "infidels" (secular rulers), and following a five-year war, proclaimed himself the first Sultan of the Sokoto Caliphate.

In subjugating Nigeria in the early 1900s, British colonizers nonetheless left in place the Northern Islamist administrative system. Hence the stage was set for similar movements of radical Islam to mushroom throughout northern Nigeria's tortuous 20th century and for Boko Haram in the 21st century.

Comolli paints vivid portraits of the terrorist group's first two leaders, either of whom could be archvillains in a James Bond movie or in thriller novels by Frederick Forsyth or Guy Saville.

Boko Haram's founding father, Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, was a charismatic orator, a fluent English speaker who appeared on outlets such as the BBC, had four wives, lived lavishly, and drove a Mercedes-Benz.

The author's reprinting of a four-page transcription of Yusuf's interrogation by authorities shortly before his execution in 2009 is revealing as well as chilling.

Abubaker Shekau, Yusuf's second-in-command and designated successor as leader of Boko Haram, said: "I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams." Married to one of Yusuf's four wives, Shekau usually appears in videos with an AK-47.

Thought to be dead in 2013, mystery man Shekau stunned the world in September of that year by appearing in an online video to proclaim, "Here I am, alive, hale, and hearty."

The author spells out Shekau's credo that "government of the people by the people for the people will never exist" and "Democracy shall be replaced only by the government of Allah."

Under Shekau's helm, Boko Haram has bombed political rallies, attacked polling stations, and assassinated candidates and political figures.

Also illustrated and documented by Comolli is the internationalization of Boko Haram: its ties and those of its Nigerian terrorist twin Ansaru to al-Qaida, al-Shabab of Somalia — which orchestrated the bloody attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013 — and its hand in Islam-based uprisings in Mali. Earlier this year, Boko Haram stunned Nigerians by proclaiming solidarity with the Islamic State (ISIS).

"I believe it has the potential, if unchecked, to expand to other Western Africa nations," Comolli concludes, citing reports of a possible Boko Haram presence in Senegal.

As to whether it will become the latest "al-Qaida franchise," the author is not sure "and frankly, it might not make much of a difference to Boko Haram's trajectory."

Rich in facts and well-grounded in its documentation of terrorist tactics, "Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Insurgency" is a powerful chronicle of one of the most serious threats to Africa today.

"Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Insurgency," is published by Hurst and Company of London.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Nearly five years ago, Africa specialist Virginia Comolli began her research on the then-obscure Nigeria-based terrorist group called Boko Haram.
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2015-32-19
Wednesday, 19 Aug 2015 11:32 AM
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