It’s the world’s deadliest terrorist organization – a murderous army of Islamic extremists that has turned death and destruction into a way of life.
It’s not al-Qaeda. It’s not ISIS. And it’s not even in the Middle East.
While ISIS-backed terrorists have captured the world’s attention after a series of bloody attacks in the heart of Europe, another Islamist militant organization is growing bigger and bolder.
And no one is talking about it yet.
Nigeria’s Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to ISIS, vowing to wipe out all who stand in the way of its savage interpretation of Islam.
“Boko Haram learns very quickly,” Former US ambassador to Nigeria Robin Sanders told Al Jazeera.
This ability to rapidly shift tactics and open new fronts has allowed Boko Haram to surpass ISIS as the world’s deadliest terrorist organization. The group has masterminded the slaughter of hundreds of innocents at a time – in one case, killing some 2,000 people in a single brutal attack.
In another, they kidnapped hundreds of young schoolgirls, most of whom have never been seen again – but many were reportedly forced to covert to Islam and turned into child brides.
In a particularly vile twist, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau then released a video taunting the girls’ parents.
“If you knew the state your daughters are in today, it might lead some of you… to die from grief,” he said.
Other kids have suffered an even worse fate, with many burned alive and others – including young girls – turned into unwilling suicide bombers.
After years of ignoring this looming threat, President Barack Obama’s administration is finally starting to pay attention. In February, they began sending Special Operations to Nigeria to help coordinate a counter-assault.
But like much of the White House’s “planning” over the past 7 years, it may be too little too late – because Boko Haram isn’t just big.
At one point, they controlled an area of 20,000 square miles – about twice the size of Massachusetts – and ruled with an iron fist over a population of 1.8 million.
Those who did not immediately convert to their brand of extremist Islam were singled out for slavery, torture and death.
Some of that territory has been recaptured, but Boko Haram continues to hold vast portions of the country and is threatening to take more by combining traditional arms with sick new weapons – including birds with explosives strapped to them.
It would be easy to dismiss this as problem in a far-away land — but that would be a huge mistake, because this group is not content to be a regional power.
They’ve already expanded from Nigeria to threaten four other neighboring countries – and the targets of their attacks indicated even bigger goals.
They’re attacked Western interests, and even the United Nations itself.
Already, Boko Haram and ISIS share “tactics, techniques and procedures,” according to U.S. Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, commander of special operations in Africa.
If they’re allowed to grow unchecked, it will only be a matter of time before it shares more with ISIS – including assaults on innocents in other nations.
— The Horn editorial team