Boko Haram is on the rise and is slowly but surely becoming one of the most deadliest militant groups in the world right now. The manner in which ISIS have taken over swathes of Syria and Iraq and has gone global in its quest for power and taking its self-proclaimed Caliphate to Europe and North America through means that were not considered possible before makes them the greatest security threat of modern times. Moreover, the fact that they have not hesitated in killing people at free will just to further their agenda makes the Islamic State a dangerous adversary and a far deadlier threat than the Taliban and Al-Qaeda ever were.
However, there is another terrorist group which may not have furthered its agenda on a global level but has proven to be even more dangerous and sadistic than the ISIS. The Institute of Economics and Peace at the University of Maryland has released its Global Terrorism Index 2015 in which it shows that the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram was responsible for more deaths than any other militant group in the world in 2014.
Boko Haram is a localized militancy
Unlike ISIS, Boko Haram wages war against insurgents who are against local authorities in the northern provinces of Nigeria. In 2014, the group was responsible for 6,664 deaths, compared to ISIS’ 6,073 deaths. It should alsobe noted that 77% of the killings done by Boko Haram were private citizens from 453 separate incidents, while 44% of ISIS’ killings were citizens, which shows a ruthless side of the Nigerian militant group that makes it appear deadlier than its Middle Eastern counterpart. The two groups however, are equally deadly considering the fact that the two were jointly responsible for 51% of all claimed global fatalities in 2014.
Another important stat should be kept in mind while comparing the deadly efficiency of these two groups. Nigeria experienced the largest increase in terrorist activity with 7,512 deaths in 2014, an increase of over 300% since 2013. These attacks orchestrated by Boko Haram include several suicide bombings and the razing of dozens of villages and towns. Murder, torture, rape and other crimes against humanity are carried out by the Nigerian militant group on a daily basis as three northeastern states, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, remain under a state of emergency.
Boko Haram and ISS – friends, not foes
It is, however, clear that Boko Haram is learning a lot from ISIS, which it pledged allegiance in an audio message from the group’s elusive leader, Abubakar Shekau.
In the audio message posted in March this year, the Boko Haram leader purportedly said: “We announce our allegiance to the caliph… and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity. We call on Muslims everywhere to pledge allegiance to the caliph.”
Since 2009, Boko Haram has waged insurgency in Nigeria in an effort to create a mini-state under Islamic law. The insurgency has forced approximately 2.6 million people from their homes, killed 17,000 people, and abducted hundreds, including the 276 schoolgirls who were kidnapped from the Chibok village in April 2014. So far, only 58 girls have returned home, while the remaining 219 are still missing.
The Nigerian government is under a lot of pressure to eradicate the group with newly-elected President, Muhammadu Buhari looking to put an end to the insurgency by the end of the year – a target that has received plentiful criticism from all sides. Buhari has also established a joint task force with neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon in a bid to fight the Islamist group. And although the Nigerian president is confident that the new alliance is going to help spell an end to the 6-year long insurgency, it remains to be seen whether the target can be met since the country’s northwestern part is still under the control of Boko Haram.
Compared to ISIS, Boko Haram has been able to dominate proceedings in a way that has forced the country’s president to also explore the possibility of a peace proposal. Clearly, the country’s military is struggling against this deadly enemy and had a change of heart after ruling out negotiations with the group before he was elected in March. This sudden backtrack is perhaps due to the military’s inability to prove its efficiency against the group.
Earlier this week, Nigerian Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Tukur Buratai chose to adopt a tight-lipped posture amidst reports that about 105 soldiers were killed by Boko Haram terrorists when they failed to return from a routine mission in the Northeast. Nigerian media has been reporting the deaths of these soldiers, but the country’s chief of army staff maintains that the soldiers have since returned to their battalion.
A battle-hardened group
However, reports claim that the 157th Battalion of the Nigerian Army has suffered immeasurable losses in the recent attack, while terrorists have also been able to capture a T-72 tank and several artillery weapons from the unit. Insurgents have also been able to capture eight vehicles, a truck loaded with 60,000 rounds of AA ammunition and three artillery pieces.
Soldiers of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) posted at Baga, Borno State are also struggling to tackle Boko Haram, with another attack leaving several dead. Compared to ISIS, which has not really used such military tactics against its enemies, the Nigerian militant group is proving itself to be a more experienced and battle-hardened enemy.
However, its small victories here and there do not really make it a bigger threat to global security like ISIS because the group’s ambitions are not global — or not for the time being at least. Moreover, the fact that Boko Haram is focused on establishing a mini-caliphate in Nigeria means that its main focus is always going to be to further its agenda inside the country. As of now, Boko Haram does not have the military capacity to think globally like ISIS. However, with time, if its progress is not kept in check, the African militant group will be able to gather enough resources to seek new pastures, which would then make it a bigger threat than ISIS – a scenario one hopes never unfolds.