ABDUCTED GIRLS: VIEWS FROM ABROAD: The outrage, emotion, confusion

FROM a nationwide outcry, the outrage against the abduction of over two hundred teenage secondary school girls in Borno State, has become global. At the same time, the utterances of some eminent Nigerians have continued to generate mixed feelings, leading to an atmosphere of confusion as the search for the girls continues

WE don’t know the location of the girls —President Jonathan

IF this thing had happened in another state and security personnel were moved, the whole world would have seen a lot of mobilization. Security personnel are already on ground. All the information given to us, we have searched the places, we have used helicopter to search the surfaces.

We promise that wherever these girls are, we will surely get them out. The good thing is that there is no story that any of the girls have been hurt, injured or dead. I really sympathize with the parents and guardians of these girls. We believe that wherever these girls are, we will get them out.

What we request is maximum cooperation from the parents and the guardians of these girls. Up till this time, they have not been able to come out clearly to give the police the identity of the girls that are to return. The police have records of 44 of them, while the principal mentioned to me on Saturday night that 53 have returned but the police have record of 44.

I recently set up a committee to go to Borno State, we will provide the security. We are pleading that the parents should cooperate with government, we will need the identities, including their photographs. We are also talking to neighboring countries so that wherever they take those girls to, we will surely get them back if we get the maximum cooperation from the parents and guardians.

Let me reassure Nigerians that we will get the girls out, we appreciate the concern shown by Nigerians and globally. We see what they are doing in terms of protest, which is quite healthy.”

It’s a heartbreaking situation—President Barack Obama

“We’ve already sent in a team to Nigeria. They’ve accepted our help through a combination of military, law enforcement, and other agencies who are going in, trying to identify where in fact these girls might be and provide them help. It’s a heartbreaking situation, outrageous situation. This may be the event that helps to mobilize the entire international community to finally do something against this horrendous organization that’s perpetrated such a terrible crime.’’

Abduction act of pure evil — Cameron

“This is not just a Nigerian issue, it is a global issue.There are extreme Islamists around our world who are against education, against progress, against equality and we must fight them and take them on wherever they are.’’

Govt in a state of denial —Soyinka

‘’This is a government which is not only in denial mentally, but in denial about certain obvious steps to take. It’s one of those rather child-like situations that if you shut your eyes, if you don’t exhibit the tactile evidence of the missing humanity here, that somehow the problem will go away. It is not just a Nigerian problem. I’m calling for the international community, the United Nations – this is a problem. This is a global problem. And a foothold is being very deeply entrenched in West Africa.’’

We’ll sell your girls into slavery —Shekau

“I abducted a girl at a Western education school and you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. Western education should end. Girls, you should go and get married. I will repeat this: Western education should fold up. I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine.’’

Nigerian women, don’t demonstrate again —Patience Jonathan

“Before all these killings, I called and told the first lady of Borno State to let us come together. She answered me yes, but when the kidnap happened, I called her, she did not answer me. I invited her, she did not turn up even up till today. No woman will fold her arms when her house is on fire. Today my house is on fire. Before last Friday, I called her and she promised to attend the Friday’s meeting here. But to our greatest surprise, she sent her commissioner for women affairs.

One of the mothers of the missing Chibok school girls wipes her tears as she cries during a rally by civil society groups pressing for the release of the girls in Abuja on May 6, 2014, ahead of World Economic Forum. Members of civil society groups marched through the streets of Abuja and to the Nigerian defence headquarters. AFP

Also today, she sent her commissioner for women affairs. She is the mother of Borno State. She is the first mother of these missing girls. I am their grandmother. She is not coming out. All Nigerian women are calling her. If she is not concerned and she says she doesn’t want her people to be safe, then it is left to her. If you tell us you are not crying, why should I cry more than the bereaved?

If I cry more than the bereaved, the world would ask me a question. If after today, Borno women say we should not help them, then Nigerian women, don’t demonstrate again. If you demonstrate and police do you anything, you are on your won. Borno women are playing game. Nigerian women should not go out for demonstration. Don’t use school children for demonstration again. Borno women are not ready for cooperation. I am not accusing anybody. My own is let us stop killings and kidnapping.

Let us say a stop to these. You want to kill my husband; you want to make me a widow before you go and rest. My God will never make me a widow.’’

Patience Jonathan planned to humiliate me —Borno First Lady

‘’From the body language of the the President’s wife and some of her close associates that there was high possibility that the First Lady’s demand for the governor’s wife to be at the meeting on Sunday was to humiliate her by accusing her husband to her face in the midst of participants at the meeting and she thought it was better she concentrates on her planned trip to Chibok on Monday morning. The Governor’s wife regards the First Lady as a mother given her age and position as mother of the nation. Rather than present herself for a clash in an event her husband, the Governor was disparaged before her at the Sunday meeting, which could have prompted an emotional reaction.’’

We’re close to abductors – Military

‘’The bases we visited are part of the responses to the terrorist offensive and that is an achievement; the military had moved close to where the insurgents are. It shows that the military had taken over the land. The morale of the soldiers was high, and we are expecting to see more successes from the troops,’’ Director of Defense Information, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade said.

I don’t think the girls were kidnapped—Kema Chikwe

“How did it happen? Who saw it happen? Who did not see it happen? Who is behind this?”

I don’t think the Chibok school girls were kidnapped.”

Others: British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the kidnappings “disgusting” while Angelina Jolie, speaking in Paris, condemned the Chibok abductions as “unthinkable cruelty and evil”.

Egypt’s prestigious Islamic institute Al-Azhar, which runs the main Sunni Islamic university in the region, said harming the girls “completely contradicts the teachings of Islam”

WHAT he lacked in oratorical capabilities, he made up for in bellicosity. “I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill,” he said after orchestrating an attack that claimed 180 lives. ”The way I enjoy killing chickens and rams.”

Boko Haram has a similar operational structure to al-Qaeda. There are individual cells that affiliate under the same name, but operate autonomously. “A lot of those calling themselves leaders in the group do not even have contact with him,” Salkida told the BBC last year. But even with such division, Shekau has maintained control – and created a mystique – through his brutality and ability to survive. In 2013, the Nigerian military again announced he had likely been killed. But he later surfaced once more in a fresh video, saying he was “protected by Allah.”

“Why is he so violent? I think because Shekau was almost killed,” Martin Ewi, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, told France 24. ”Imagine coming back from the dead. He knows he doesn’t have a second chance if he’s caught by the security forces…He was in the mouth of the crocodile, now he’s coming back to kill the crocodile.”

 NEW YORK TIMES: Nigeria’s Stolen Girls

THREE weeks after their horrifying abduction in Nigeria, 276 of the more than 300 girls who were taken from a school by armed militants are still missing, possibly sold into slavery or married off. Nigerian security forces apparently do not know where the girls are and the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has been shockingly slow and inept at addressing this monstrous crime.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Children’s Fund said Boko Haram, the ruthless Islamist group that claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, abducted more young girls from their homes in the same part of the country in the northeast over the weekend. The group, whose name roughly means “Western education is a sin,” has waged war against Nigeria for five years. Its goal is to destabilize and ultimately overthrow the government. The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in a video released on Monday, “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah.”

This is not the first time Boko Haram has attacked students, killing young men and kidnapping young women. The security situation in Northeast Nigeria has steadily deteriorated. In the first three months of this year, attacks by Boko Haram and reprisals by government security forces have killed at least 1,500 people, more than half of them civilians, according to Amnesty International. Until now, there has been little response to the violence, either in Nigeria or internationally. But the kidnapping of so many young girls, ages 12 to 15, has triggered outrage and ignited a rare antigovernment protest movement in Nigeria.

On Sunday, after weeks of silence, Mr. Jonathan admitted that “this is a trying time for our country,” and he said that Nigerians were justified in their anger against the government and appealed for international help. The reaction of Mr. Jonathan’s wife, Patience, was stunningly callous; according to state news media, she told one of the protest leaders, “You are playing games. Don’t use schoolchildren and women for demonstrations again.”

Boko Haram’s claim that it follows Islamic teachings is nonsense. A pre-eminent Islamic theological institute, Al-Azhar in Egypt, denounced the abductions, saying it “completely contradicts the teachings of Islam and its tolerant principles.” Although Boko Haram is believed to number no more than a few hundred men, Nigerian security forces have been unable to defeat them.

Mr. Jonathan, who leads a corrupt government that has little credibility, initially played down the group’s threat and claimed security forces were in control. It wasn’t until Sunday, more than two weeks after the kidnappings, that he called a meeting of government officials, including the leader of the girls’ school, to discuss the incident. There is no doubt the intelligence and investigation help President Obama offered on Monday is needed.

The kidnappings occurred just as President Jonathan is about to hold the World Economic Forum on Africa, with 6,000 troops deployed for security. That show of force may keep the delegates safe, but Nigeria’s deeply troubled government cannot protect its people, attract investment and lead the country to its full potential if it cannot contain a virulent insurgency.

AL JAZEERA: Nigeria: A serious test of stability

AS Nigeria takes centre stage hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa, events in recent weeks have tarnished its image as a country that has come of age.

In April, as Africa’s most populous nation assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council and chairmanship of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, news came that Nigeria had also outstripped South Africa to become the continent’s largest economy.

Yet, while its role regionally and globally may never have been greater, recent events – most notably the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by the Islamist armed group Boko Haram – show that Nigeria faces a serious domestic test of its stability which also threatens regional peace and security.

More than three weeks after the girls were taken from a secondary school in a village in north-eastern Nigeria, their whereabouts remain unknown and frustration is mounting at the failure of the government to find them. Indeed the only arrests so far made related to the kidnappings have been of two women protesting against the slowness of the government’s response.

The horrific abduction shows the serious nature of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law being committed by Boko Haram. It is imperative that Nigeria acts swiftly and firmly to secure their safe return – with international support if needed – but the process must also demonstrate a commitment to human dignity, human rights, transparency and accountability. To do this Nigeria needs the help of all its friends attending the Abuja World Economic Forum.

Violence intensified In May 2013, following a deepening campaign of violence by Boko Haram, in north-eastern Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, three states particularly affected by the insurgency.

But a year on, the violence has intensified in both scope and casualties and the population are becoming increasingly vulnerable not only to abuses by Boko Haram but also to violations by the state security forces who have regularly responded with heavy-handed and indiscriminate violence of their own.

In the first four months of 2014, more than 1,800 people have been killed in the conflict. In April, on the same day that the schoolgirls were abducted from Chibok, Borno state, a car bomb planted by Boko Haram in an Abuja bus station killed more than 70 people . Several institutions, including Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, recognise that the situation has deteriorated into a non-international armed conflict.

The ICC prosecutor is presently in the last stages of determining whether or not to open a formal investigation into the situation in Nigeria.

No responsible government can sit back and do nothing in the face of such unfolding horror. The challenge, however, is to respond in a way that enhances instead of diminishes the resilience of the country and its institutions, upholds the dignity of the affected communities and does not involve state actors in serious violations of International human rights and Humanitarian Law.

The wave of violence by Boko Haram cannot justify the mounting allegations of unlawful killings, extrajudicial executions and torture by state security forces which led Amnesty International to conclude in March 2014 that both Boko Haram and Nigeria’s security forces have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Ahead of Nigeria’s elections in February 2015, Nigeria’s government and its allies must forge new partnerships to make lawful headway against this insurgency. But it must not be done at the expense of human rights.

So what should happen? The country’s counter-insurgency strategy should be anchored on recognition of human rights and support for community resilience.

Transparent investigation
To achieve this the government in coordination with the National Human Rights Commission should carry out a transparent investigation into all allegations of abuses on both sides. National institutions for accountability must be supported – with international assistance if needed.

The atrocities being carried out by Boko Haram must be addressed. How can a country live in a state of fear where school children are vulnerable to kidnap and attack?

But a heavy-handed security response is not the answer. Nigeria must meet its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. The National Human Rights Commission has already called for the rules of engagement for security forces to be immediately reviewed and updated and there needs to be a commitment to re-training them accordingly.

The Commission – and other independent observers – should be given adequate and secure access to monitor all places of detention and all sides in the conflict must allow humanitarian access and protection of civilians and affected communities. Nigeria’s partners and allies can offer help to make this possible.

Speaking at the UN Security Council in April, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations said that its month-long presidency would promote the cause of international peace and security and help the UN to address issues in Africa. A laudable goal, but one that can only be achieved if Nigeria shows true leadership and respect for human rights in its efforts to rout the insurgency.

As the world holds its breath for safe return of the abducted schoolgirls, we also must hope that the kidnappers will be brought to justice and that Nigeria can lead the way on human rights protection as well as economic development.

Salil Shetty is the Secretary-General of Amnesty International. A long-term activist on poverty and justice, he leads the movement’s worldwide work to end the abuse of human rights. Prior to joining Amnesty International, he was the director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign.

 GUARDIAN OF LONDON: Nigerian abductions: the stolen daughters

NIGERIA likes to present itself as the face of Africa rising. But its response to the kidnapping has belonged firmly in the other African narrative: hopeless Africa. When historians want to understand how a state functioned at some earlier time, they look for a period of civil crisis. In Britain, outbreaks of the plague provide key benchmarks of the sophistication of administrators. Studying evidence of accountability, the nature of the forces that can be mobilised, the capacity to record detail and keep and update information, these are all indicators of the health of the underpinnings of a functioning state.

In the past few weeks, civil disaster has struck Malaysia, South Korea and Nigeria. The mystery of the disappearance of flight MH370 with 239 people on board in early March was not just a catastrophe for those on board and their families, and the airline that carried them. It became a national embarrassment for the government and exposed unsuspected deficiencies in national security. Beijing accused Malaysia of a lack of transparency. The fallout may still frame the debate for the second term of the prime minister, Najib Razak.

In South Korea last week, the prime minister resigned over the loss of the Sewol, which sank with the loss of 300 passengers and crew, mainly schoolchildren. The surviving crew face criminal charges. There will be an inquiry that may change regulations for ship design and impose new standards of seamanship. This is the response of a government that wants to show its citizens it feels their pain.

The news from Chibok in the Borno province of north-east Nigeria, where more than 200 schoolgirls are still missing more than a fortnight after they were abducted from their dormitories, tells a more difficult story. Nigeria is a huge country, the world’s seventh most populous and so diverse it has been dismissed as a mere geographical expression.

The religious tension between north and south means that, for many people, faith is a primary source of identification, something successive governments have done little to address. Insecurity and official corruption, said one recent report, have left most Nigerians poorer than they were at independence in 1960. Development has bypassed rural areas such as Chibok almost entirely, empowering Boko Haram, the violent jihadi organisation that Amnesty International believes has murdered at least 750 civilians so far this year. Boko Haram does not claim to have abducted the girls, but the day they were kidnapped it set off a bomb in Abuja that killed 75 people, and it has murdered scores of teachers and students in its campaign to end western influence in classrooms.

Rich from its vast oil reserves, Nigeria likes to present itself as the face of Africa rising. The week before the kidnapping, it declared its economy was larger than South Africa’s. But so far, its response to the kidnapping has belonged firmly in the other African narrative: hopeless Africa.

Neither the president, Goodluck Jonathan, nor his wife, Patience, have engaged with the kidnapping. The news has been erratic, conflicting and impossible to corroborate.

This week, there have been reports that the girls are just a phone call from freedom, that they have been forcibly converted to Islam and distributed as wives to the terrorists, and that they have been trafficked across the border into Cameroon.

The provincial military – which has been accused of gross human rights violations in Borno – at first claimed that the students had all been rescued and, when that was hotly denied by their families, claimed it had suffered heavy losses from engagements with the terrorists in the forest in attempts to release them.

Now ordinary Nigerians are mobilising. Hundreds of women, both Muslim and Christian, dressed in red, marched through the rain in Abuja to put pressure on the government. More are scheduled to rally in Lagos on Thursday On Wednesday night the senate president was due to lead a delegation to the president to discuss ways of mounting a rescue.

The abduction has been condemned around the world. But although in the past US military aid has been reported in the region, there have been no offers of help. It is not only Nigeria’s government that is exposed by this crisis.

• This article was amended on 5 May 2014. An earlier version said Amnesty International believed Boko Haram had murdered 1,500 people so far this year. Amnesty believes more than 1,500 have been killed in north-eastern Nigeria this year in total, at least half of them in attacks by Boko Haram.

Washington Post: 8 questions you want answered about Nigeria’s missing schoolgirls

IT’S been three weeks, and hundreds of pupils from Chibok Government Secondary Girls School in Nigeria are still missing, kidnapped by Nigerian terror group Boko Haram. Their plight has sparked protests and global outrage, including a now viral Twitter hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls. As the girls remain hidden by their captors, fears for their health and safety increase. Here’s what you need to know t0 get up to speed.

What happened? On April 15, a convoy of trucks carrying Boko Haram fighters – more about them below – arrived at the school in Chibok, a remote northeastern town in Nigeria. They seized more than 300 girls from the school dormitory, burned its food supplies and razed the building before racing off with their captives into the bush.

Some of the girls escaped, but more than 200 remain in Boko Haram custody. (The school’s principal told the Wall Street Journal that at least 223 girls are still missing, while other reports suggest the number is around 276.) They are believed to be between 16 and 18 years old. On Tuesday, suspected Boko Haram gunmen reportedly captured eight more girls, ages 12 to 15, as well as livestock from another village in northeastern Nigeria.

What is Boko Haram? It’s a Nigerian Islamist militant group that has been operating in the country’s northeast since 2002. The name Boko Haram means, literally, “Western education is sinful” in the local Hausa language. In recent years, the group has waged a bloody campaign against schools in the country’s Muslim-majority northeast in a bid to propagate shariah as the only law of the land.

It is rumored to have ties to al-Qaeda, as well as other affiliated outfits in Africa, such as Somalia’s al-Shabab. Through bombings and shooting sprees on a host of civilian and government targets, Boko Haram has claimed hundreds of lives since its insurgency began, centered on the city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno state.

Months of emergency rule and a brutal Nigerian army counterinsurgency have failed to defeat the group.

Where are the militants keeping the schoolgirls?
Chibok, south of Maiduguri, is in the country’s remote northeast, far from Abuja and even further from Lagos, the coastal metropolis whose bustle and boom have come to define Africa’s most populous nation for many outsiders.

It’s believed Boko Haram is holding the girls captive somewhere in the forests of the region. According to an Associated Press report, two of the girls have died from snakebite. One of the girls who escaped told the New Yorker that the rest were not far from Chibok. Immediately after the mass abduction, parents and locals in Chibok attempted a rescue sortie into the forest to find their loved ones. But they were eventually dissuaded because of their lack of firepower and out of concern that confronting the militants would further endanger the schoolgirls.

What is Boko Haram going to do to the girls?
No one knows for sure, but many fear the worst. It’s been rumored the Christian girls in the group were forced to convert to Islam. A video released this week appears to show Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, declaring that the girls will be sold as brides — in effect, made into sex slaves. ”God instructed me to sell them; they are his properties, and I will carry out his instructions,” says Shekau in the video. It’s unclear when the footage was shot.

That’s awful. Has this happened before?

Sadly, yes. Despite its particular ideological bent, Boko Haram is one of many fringe, guerrilla outfits around the world to kidnap women and coerce them in various ways. In 1996, the Lord’s Resistance Army, the militia-turned-messianic-cult of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony — subject of another Twitter frenzy — captured 139 schoolgirls from their dormitories. The girls were beaten, abused and raped by their captors. It took the pursuit and entreaties of a nun to free the majority of them. But four of the girls died, and the last were eventually rescued by 2006.

Surely Nigeria’s government won’t let the schoolgirls languish in captivity for that long. Will it?
The signs aren’t all that encouraging. Here’s the government’s initial reaction, summed up by Nigeria-based journalist Alexis Okeowo:

The day after the abduction, the Nigerian military claimed that it had rescued nearly all of the girls. A day later, the military retracted its claim; it had not actually rescued any of the girls. And the number that the government said was missing, just over a hundred, was less than half the number that parents and school officials counted: according to their tally, two hundred and thirty-four girls were taken.

Mounting domestic outrage — and international bewilderment — has compelled Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to promise their rescue. “Wherever these girls are, we’ll get them out,” he said in a public television address on Sunday. But he has yet to visit the region, and subsequent reports that the Nigerian first lady, Patience Jonathan, may have ordered the arrest of activists protesting the government’s inefficacy has further muddied the waters. The slow official response has reinforced the perception that Nigeria’s ruling establishment is not invested in the lives of people like the Chibok schoolgirls, who come from a historically marginalized part of the country that has grown wary of the central state.

What can be done to save the girls?

It’s a bit unclear. Even if the girls’ exact location is known, a robust military operation may endanger them. In 2012, Nigerian and British commandos tried to rescue two British and Italian contract workers held hostage by militant jihadis, but the assault led to the workers’ deaths at the hands of their captors.

Foreign governments including the United States and France, which has spent quite some time combating Islamist militancy in West Africa, have promised to give practical support and share intelligence with the Nigerian government. The United States has provided considerable counterterrorism assistance to Nigeria in the past. Local officials and journalists are using a network of intermediaries to learn more about the girls’ condition.

Boko Haram is a fanatical terrorist group, but it sprung up from an environment shaped by government neglect, corruption and mismanagement. Its zeal and disorganized tactical structure make dialogue with the government difficult. But, as is the case for insurgencies elsewhere, the efforts of local interlocutors — applying whatever leverage they can muster — may be the best hope for a peaceful resolution to a shocking, unacceptable situation.

What does the continuing crisis mean for Nigeria?
The global attention now focused on the plight of the missing schoolgirls comes perhaps at the worst time for the Jonathan administration. On Wednesday, Abuja is set to host the World Economic Forum, an event intended to burnish the oil-rich nation’s growing global clout. Jonathan and Chinese premier Li Keqiang are slated to deliver the opening address. Now, the disappearance of these schoolgirls — and the underlying questions it raises about Nigeria’s governance and fragile security situation — will likely cloud proceedings.

The man behind the Nigerian girls’ kidnappings and his death-defying mystique—Washington Post

No one knows how old he is. Some say 35. Some say 36. Others think he’s 44. Twice he was believed dead, and twice he reemerged to conduct an even broader campaign of killing and terror that made him one of the most wanted men in the world.

His name is Abubakar Shekau. He is the leader of Boko Haram. And he has your girls.

“I abducted the girls at a Western education school,” Shekau proclaimed on Monday in a video, clutching a rifle among several masked men. “And you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. … I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell; he commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”

Shekau, who has a $7 million bounty on his head, grinned a mouth of white teeth. His face was patched by scruff. He raised his arm as though delivering a sermon — and to Shekau, who considers himself a devout holy man, he was. For a group as fragmented and diverse as the Boko Haram, which kidnapped hundreds of Nigerian school girls three weeks ago, one of the few unifying factors is extremist ideology. And no one believes in the cause more than Shekau, a complex, intensely private figure.

“It is Allah that instructed us,” Shekau said in the video released Monday. “Until we soak the ground of Nigeria with Christian blood and so-called Muslims contradicting Islam. After we have killed, killed, killed, and get fatigue and wondering what to do with their corpses — smelling of [Barack] Obama, [George] Bush and [Goodluck] Jonathan — will open prison and be imprison the rest. Infidels have no value.”

Where does such vengeance come from? What does he want? Who is he?

A review of academic and first-hand accounts reveal Shekau to be both an intellectualizing theologian and a ruthless killer. Raised Muslim, he was born sometime in the 1970s in a border town named Shekau between Niger and Nigeria — in the heart of the former Sokoto caliphate.

In 1990, he moved to a town that would become the birthplace of Boko Haram to study under a traditional cleric, according to the International Crisis Group. In the early 2000s, he met its future charismatic leader, Muhammad Yusuf. Shekau became one of his earliest acolytes, and was soon one of the top lieutenants in the group.

Intense and quiet, Shekau was more bookish than the group’s gregarious leader, Yusuf. “Shekau was always studying and writing, and was more devoted and modest than anyone else,” Ahmad Salkida, a man considered the Nigerian authority on Boko Haram, told the Financial Times in 2012. ”He would only wear cheap clothes and did not accept even to drive a car, preferring a motorbike.”

Together, the men built what Salkida described in a separate account as an “imaginary state within a state.” Boko Haram was a sophisticated apparatus: a cabinet of leadership, a brigade of guards, a military branch, a large farm, and “an effective micro finance scheme.” It lured in the area’s impoverished and uneducated youths. “Boko Haram was founded on ideology, but poor governance was the catalyst for it to spread,” Salkida said. “If there had been proper governance and a functioning state, Yusuf would have found it very difficult to succeed.”

But even in those days, there was something disquieting about Shekau. “Even when Boko Haram was peaceful,” Salkida explained, “he was somehow more feared than Yusuf.”

Boko Haram, however, wouldn’t stay peaceful for long. Its clashes with Nigerian forces between 2004 and 2006 grew in intensity, and as the years ground past, Shekau became increasingly unmanageable. Yusuf “had trouble keeping his unruly lieutenants, particularly Shekau, in check,” reports the International Crisis Group.

In 2009, Yusuf was captured by the Nigerian authorities in a battle that appeared to kill Shekau as well. Yusuf was soon killed in prison, and Boko Haram, deprived of its chief, appeared on the verge of collapse. But then, less than a year later, and appointed the new leader because he was “radical and aggressive,” Shekau released a video, vowing to exterminate Western culture and education in Nigeria.



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