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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. 

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Jibrin Ibrahim of the Center for Democracy and Development's Abuja office told Nigerian newspaper The Vanguard, “They’ve already been committing abuses. It will just legalize it, in a sense.”

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Because of groups like Boko Haram and the shadowy North Africa-based Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a number of African governments in the semi-arid Sahel region – a vast region just south of the Sahara that stretches from Senegal to Somalia – are turning to US military trainers for assistance. Security experts warn that tumult from the Arab uprisings in North Africa has only fed these Islamist insurgencies with weapons and fighters, although Boko Haram’s transition from a tiny local group to an international terror threat occurred more than a year ago, when it detonated suicide bombs in Abuja on Nigeria’s independence day.

David Francis, who reported for the Monitor last fall during a fellowship with the International Reporting Project, wrote that Boko Haram's tactics could provoke a wider war. He also found that some Nigerians wondered if Boko Haram might not be simply fighting in order to get paid off in a general amnesty

But is Nigeria at the brink of a religious civil war? That’s not likely, writes Jean Herskovits, a history professor at the State University of New York in an op-ed for The New York Times.

Mr. Herskovits argues that news media and politicians often give groups like Boko Haram too much credit for organizational and technical ability.

… There is no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today. Evidence suggests instead that, while the original core of the group remains active, criminal gangs have adopted the name Boko Haram to claim responsibility for attacks when it suits them.

Boko Haram’s bombast has encouraged other Nigerian militant groups, of which there are many, to add a few non-peaceful comments. In the oil-rich Niger Delta, where residents staged a short but violent rebellion of residents protesting ecological devastation, the former warlord Mujahid Dokubo-Asari has threatened to take his southern fighters up north to put Boko Haram in its place. Mr. Asari belongs to the same tribe as President Jonathan.

“For Niger Delta people to take up arms is just a minute away. It's just Goodluck that is holding us back," Mr. Asari told Reuters news agency. "We have all reached the extreme. There is nothing anybody can do about it except we fight."

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