By Patience Ogbodo Bauchi, additional report by Uduma Kalu
Profile of Boko Haram
It will be a long war,Â Boko Haram Boko Haram, the group behind the latest violence in Northern Nigeria, is known by several different names, including al_Sunnah wal Jamma, or Followers of Muhammadâ€™s Teachings in Arabic, and Boko Haram, which means â€œWestern education is forbiddenâ€ in the local Hausa language.
The group was founded in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, allegedly by one Mohammed Yusuf, a religious teacher. In 2004, it moved to Kanamma in Yobe state, close to the border with Niger, where it set up a base dubbed â€œAfghanistanâ€, from which it attacked nearby police outposts.
Boko Haram, which includes members who come from neighbouring Chad, is said to not only oppose Western education, but Western culture as well. Abdulmuni Ibrahim Mohammed, a senior member of the group arrested on Monday, told the media that â€œWe do not believe in Western education. It corrupts our ideas and beliefs. That is why we are standing up to defend our religion.â€
The latest clashes began in Dutsen Tenshin, a neighbourhood of the city of Bauchi, capital of the state of the same name. Bauchi is one of 12 states in northern Nigeria where sharia, or Islamic law, is practised.
Sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians in Bauchi state in February left at least dozens people dead. Muslims attacked Christians and set fire to churches in retaliation for the burning of two mosques, which had been blamed on Christians. Last November, more than 700 were killed in Jos, capital of Plateau state, when a political feud over a local election degenerated into bloody confrontation between Muslims and Christians.
â€˜Democracy, education must changeâ€™, says leader
Mohammed Yusuf in a media interview said, â€œDemocracy and the current system of education must change, otherwise this war that is yet to start will continue for long.â€
And this has proved true as the clash which started in Bauchi has escalated to other neighbouring states like Borno, Adamawa, Kano and Katsina.
Many members of this group tore their degree certificates, while others dropped out from schools as a way of renouncing western education.
Why we hit Bauchi
Boko Haram came to Bauchi in January 2009 with their base at the Federal Low Cost, Fadama Mada and the airport area where they usually gathered children and the youth whom they trained.
The Islamic fundamentalists have been campaigningÂ against western education in Nigeria, especially, in the Northern states. They were said toÂ have sparked off the crisis when their members launched an attack at the Tusen Tanshi Police Station in the early hours of Sunday.
The group, it was said, reacted to why its adherents were prevented by the government in Bauchi, with the use of security agents, fromÂ publicly practising their belief, as well as win more members for the sect.
However, before the attack, members of the sect have been planning a demonstration in Bauchi for a long time. But they were not able to do so, as government feared that if the doctrine was allowed to be preached publicly, it would cause a religious crisis.
Government was also said to against the demonstration,Â considering the fact that the teachings are completely contrary to other Islamic sectsâ€™ stand as regards peaceful coexistence.
The attack, timing,Â recruitment
This situation made the Islamic sect troop out in their hundreds to the Dutsen Tanshi Police Station in the early hours ofÂ Sunday, and attacked it, chasing away the few policemen on duty, and forced themselves into the station, destroying anything they could lay their hands on. But they could not break into the armoury, which was under lock and key.
That was the beginning of the ugly Sunday. And though the state has had other violent terroristsâ€™ acts,Â the latest episode was a bloodbath. And Bauchi State residents will not forget it in a hurry.
It was Sunday, July 26,Â 2009. And members of the Islamic sect called Boko Haram, which means â€˜western education is sinâ€™, gathered in their hundreds at 4 am. Their target, this time, were not the Christians but security agents.
By the end of the fight between the security agents and the militants, 39 members of Boko Haram lay dead while two policemen and one soldier were killed.
Boko Haramâ€™s gun shots
One of the residents of Federal Low Cost, Samuel Daniel, a civil servant,Â told Saturday Vanguard that they were woken up from sleep that Sunday morning byÂ gun shots sounds which lasted for hours.
â€œWhen we heard the gun shot , we thought it was armed robbers. So, we all hid under our bed and shut the doors. But we later heard that it was a clash between security agents and Islamic sects.â€
Speaking to Saturday Vanguard, one of the members of the group arrested by security men in Bauchi,Â Â 18 years old Adamu Adbullahi, who dropped outÂ of school,Â said he disobeyed his mother in order to join Boko Haram.
According to him, â€œThey do not forceÂ anybodyÂ Â to joinÂ because my mother was against me joiningÂ the group. But I told her I believe in their teaching and that is what I read in the Quran due to that we desire that everybody should be practicing muslimsâ€.
Salisu Mohammed, a conflict management specialist, told Al Jazeera that Nigerian authorities should have acted sooner to stop the proliferation of Boko Haram. â€œMany people have known of the existence of this group, silently and within the community, especially in the last year,â€ he said.
â€œThey are becoming more extreme because in the past, there wasnâ€™t a major push in place to check their proliferation. They are taking advantage of a broken-down structural condition in Nigeria that people can take the law into their hands without getting reprimanded.â€
Analysts have also said that at the heart of this weekâ€™s violence is dire poverty and political manoeuvring _ not religion. They believe attacks were committed mainly by frustrated, unemployed youths and orchestrated by religious leaders and politicians who manipulate them to retain power.
39, policeman, soldier killed
The Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 12, Bauchi, Moses Anegbode,Â described theÂ Islamic sect as a criminal group parading itself as a religion which he saidÂ isÂ a threat to peace of the people in the state.
The AIG disclosed that 39 of the Boko HaramÂ were killed in a confrontation by a joint security operation last Sunday in Bauchi, while 176 of them were arrested and 15 injured.
He added that a lance corporal in the Army and two policemen were killed in the operations against the group.
According to him, the security operatives went after members of Boko Haram after they attacked a police station in Dutse Tanshi and opened fire during attempts to arrest them at their various hideouts at the Federal Low CostÂ and Fadama MadaÂ Â areas.
Maiduguri, Nigeriaâ€™s first suicide mission target
Speaking further, Anegbode said that in Maiduguri that same Sunday, some members of the group, in spite of the heavy security in the state, came to a police station on a suicide mission with three motorcycles and sped towards the gate and set it ablaze.
According to the AIGÂ â€œ They forbid anything western yetÂ Â their leader has an array of western materials in their position and their usage.Â Even the phone, Jeep cars. I wonder if they were made by him,Â and theyÂ are notorious for kidnappings, for raping, for intimidation and molestation and known to be anti_establishment.â€
Boko Haramâ€™s weapons
Anegbode revealed thatÂ dangerous weapons such as AK 47, 270 rounds of live ammunition,Â a single_barrel gun, three locally made single barrel_gun, two locally made revolver pistols, 5 rounds of 7.66 live ammunition, 500 rounds of 7.66 mm live ammunition,Â 21 live cartridges were recovered from their enclave in Fadama Mada in Bauchi metropolis.
He said â€œThe implications of this is that these men are armed with sophisticated guns like, pump action guns, revolver pistols, AK 47 and lar rifles recovered from them. The operation is still on_going. We are doing mope up operation so that these items can be recovered,â€ he added.
According to him, two bags of lethal gun powder used for making explosives, 200 detonators, over 1, 000 locally fabricated plastic cylinders that could be used for manufacture of local guns, were also recovered from them. HeÂ described the items as dangerous substances and could be directed at society.
Other items recovered from the Boko Haram were 33 assorted knives, four jack knives, one sword, three cutlasses, eight catapults, three bows and arrows, three quivers containing 63 arrows, two unregistered motorcycles, three sewing machines, lots of army uniforms, seven bags of potassium nitrate used for explosives manufacture, police uniform bearing a force number , and foodstuff.
The AIG stated that theÂ joint operation made up of police, army and State Security Service (SSS) went into a joint operation against the group due to thatÂ there was imminent threat to security of peace inÂ Bauchi StateÂ by their activities.
A criminal group
He saidÂ they got the approval of Governor Isa Yuguda to carry out the operation against the group saying, it has nothing to do with religion. â€œIt is just a group of criminals wearing the toga of religion. It is criminal, it is unacceptable and so we had to intervene. â€
Anegbode then assured members of the public of theÂ security agents readinessÂ to ensure safety of lives and property sayingÂ that they have mounted road blocks, check points to tyrack the members of Boko Haram down. In his reactionÂ Â to theÂ development, Minister of Police Affairs, Ibrahim Yakubu Lame said the IGP has been ordered to ensure peace and security of lives and properties of innocent citizens across the country.
He stated that in as much as government is committed to freedom of religion, it would not condone any fundamentalism which will bring about break down of law and order in the country.
Also reacting to the incident, the Bauchi State Governor, MallamÂ Isa YugudaÂ described the fundamentalists as militants, saying its routing is the best thing to happen in order to be lasting peace in the state.
He urged Nigerians to see it as a national issue which he said their plan is to attack everybody.
He called on his colleagues across the country to take similar security steps in order to cleanse the country of militancy of whatever form. According to him,Â â€œToday, we are celebrating that we have been able to see the end of the problemÂ because I have always said that what is happening in Bauchi is not religious riot but militancy as it is happening all over the country. But we thank Allah that everybody has now seen that we are right.
Weâ€™ll smash them, says Yuguda
Yuguda then called on the security agents to keep up the good work and ensure the security of lives and properties of all innocent citizens of the state. â€œI advised my colleagues to take a cue from us and pre-empt these people because they do not mean well for humanity.
I have often said it that no religion preaches violence, neither Christianity nor Islam. People only hide under these two religions to foment trouble and cause deaths of innocent people, just to achieve their selfish aims.