While the West and Russia continue to engage in a seemingly unending battle against the Islamic State group (I.S.), bombing the jihadist group’s would-be territories in Syria and Iraq with an incessant barrage of air strikes and ground attacks, the battle against West Africa’s equally nefarious terror organization, Boko Haram, has nearly been forgotten.
Smaller in size than I.S., with about 15,000 fighters according to CIA estimates, Boko Haram is just as heinous and barbaric, claiming more than 20,000 lives since its founding in 2009.
A militant offshoot of al-Qaeda that first took root in Nigeria and has since metastasizing to spread to neighboring countries (particularly Chad, Niger and Cameroon), Boko Haram has pledged alliance to I.S., and in April 2015, the fundamentalist group delighted in mocking the civilized world as it kidnapped hundreds of school girls in Chibok, Nigeria, and auctioned them off as child brides to their acolytes.
Boko Haram has displaced more than 2.3 million people from their homes, and in 2015, it was ranked the world’s deadliest terror group on the international watchdog Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index.
Late last year, the Nigerian government took more than 1,200 Boko Haram fighters prisoner, which it proclaimed constituted the final blow against the terror group.
The government proclaimed a similar victory in December 2015, but that triumph proved to be short-lived as new Boko Haram recruits began to attack rural villages.
Abuja’s latest assertion to have eradicated Boko Haram is already beginning to lose credibility.
Late last month, the bodies of 16 soldiers murdered by Boko Haram were recovered in northeast Nigeria.
Granted, Boko Haram is now weaker and more splintered than it was a year ago.
But it still remains a threat to the region, and could easily regain momentum in the months ahead.
Last month, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a video refuting claims of the group’s demise and vowing to continue attacks.
Like I.S., Boko Haram is fueled by a combination of political instability, economic desperation and perverse ideology.
And as long as those elements persist in central Africa, the threat of Boko Haram remains ever present.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]