The kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria has drawn global attention to the insurgent group Boko Haram, which President Barack Obama called “one of the worst regional or local terrorist organizations.” (National Geographic News)
- The great National Geographic News article explains Boko Haram, the group that claims to have kidnapped 276 girls from their school in northeastern Nigeria in April. President Obama calls Boko Haram “one of the worst regional or local terrorist organizations” in the world. What is terrorism? What are some examples of terrorism outside Nigeria, kidnapping, or Boko Haram?
- Terrorism is, broadly, the use of violence and threats of violence to influence political decisions. The FBI defines terrorism as “violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law” and “appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”
- The most famous weapon of modern terrorists is probably suicide bombing, in which the terrorist kills himself or herself, along with others, with an explosive device. The suicide bombing with the greatest death toll was, of course, 9/11, when suicide bombers associated with al-Qaeda used jet airplanes as explosive devices and killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Arlington, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.), and Pennsylvania.
- Targeted bombing, in which the terrorist is not killed, is also a weapon. The terrorists who planned the Oklahoma City Bombing, which killed more than 150 people, targeted a federal building with a homemade fertilizer bomb. (The terrorists were arrested, stood trial, and one was executed for his actions.)
- Besides explosions, terrorists may also take hostages, use chemical weapons, engage in gunfire or hand-to-hand violence, or sabotage infrastructure (such as bridges or railroads) to pursue their political goals.
- The Nat Geo News article quotes the U.S. Institute for Peace in saying “the three major reasons young men join Boko Haram are unemployment and poverty, manipulation by extremist religious leaders, and a lack of awareness of the authentic teachings” about religion (Islam). Can these factors also be applied to recruits to other terrorist organizations? Take a look at the FBI’s information on domestic terrorism, the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, or consider groups loosely affiliated with Boko Haram: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Somalia’s al Shabaab, and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).
- Yes, these factors have even been connected with why people join gangs and organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan (which many people consider a terrorist organization itself).
- Of course, these are incredibly general characteristics. Most people who share the vulnerabilities associated with being young and poverty-stricken oppose terrorists and terrorism as much as anyone else.
- According to the Nat Geo News article, the conflict in Nigeria has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Those numbers are not reflected in the “Displaced People” layer of our MapMaker Interactive. Why not? Do you think Nigeria’s displaced population would be classified as refugees, asylum-seekers, or internally displaced people (IDPs)? Where would they flee? Read more about categories of displaced people in our media spotlight.
- The text accompanying the map layer says the data was collected between 2006 and 2010. Boko Haram did not become active until 2010 and 2011. The data on the map is simply too old to account for the increasing violence in Nigeria.
- Most Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram are probably IDPs, moving from their homes in northern Nigeria to relative safety in the south. Refugees and asylum-seekers most likely flee to neighboring nations, such as Cameroon, Chad, and Niger—all of which have pockets of Boko Haram conflict.