Nigeria dispatches troops to north to stop Boko Haram attacks
The Christmas Day attack on a church is only the latest in string of attacks by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, who has given Christians living in the north three days to leave the region.
Nigeria has sent government troops to the country's troubled northern areas, where a radical Islamist group has launched a string of attacks on Christians, most recently a Christmas Day church bombing in the capital of Abuja that killed 43 people.Skip to next paragraph
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President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the north, and sent two brigades of soldiers to towns that have been targeted by Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin.”
Abdul Qaqa, who claims to speak for Boko Haram, gave Christians in the north three days to leave, and urged Muslims living in the south to move up north. Nigeria's north is predominantly Muslim, while the south is mostly Christian.
“We find it pertinent to state that soldiers will only kill innocent Muslims in the local government areas where the state of emergency was declared. We would confront them squarely to protect our brothers. We also wish to call on our fellow Muslims to come back to the North because we have evidence that they would be attacked. We are also giving a three-day ultimatum to the Southerners living in the Northern part of Nigeria to move away,” [Abdul Qaqa was quoted as saying by the Nigerian newspaper This Day].
Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al Shabab in Somalia, and a scattering of groups throughout the Arabian Peninsula and the African Sahel region who call themselves Al Qaeda, Boko Haram claims that it wants to create a society totally adherent to the way Islamic society operated at the time of the prophet Mohammed.
Many Islamic scholars point out that the hardline interpretation Boko Haram is seeking to impose has more to do with the radical ideas of Boko Haram than it does with actual Islamic history. Public opinion surveys indicate that such radical groups represent a tiny percentage of current thinking among modern Muslims. But as the 9/11 attacks, and subsequent attacks in London, Madrid, Moscow, and across the Middle East show, small militant groups can punch above their weight, using violence and intimidation to achieve what they can't achieve on the political stage or the battlefield.
Nigeria’s deployment of troops to the north shows that it takes the Boko Haram threat seriously, although Nigerian military spokesmen dismissed Boko Haram’s rhetoric. Human rights activists warned that the state of emergency could be a cover for the Nigerian military to commit abuses against Muslims, whether there is evidence to connect them to Boko Haram or not.