Boko Haram has become one of the deadliest terror groups of the 21st Century, mostly for its use of suicide bombing, according to US military academy at Westpoint, Combating Terrorism Center.
Boko Haram had topped the list of the deadliest terrorist group in the world, according to the Global Terrorism watch, in 2016.
The US military report states: “Boko Haram has deployed not only more total female bombers than any other terrorist group in history, but more female suicide bombers as a percentage of its overall suicide bombing cadre than any other group.”
The report, ‘Unexpected Operational and Demographic Characteristics of Boko Haram’s Suicide Bombers’adds, “female bombers tend to focus on different targets than men. Whereas men tend to target mostly Christian and governmental institutions, women are far more prone to target civilian locations.”
The report’s writers Jason Warner and Hilary Matfess said: “From April 11, 2011, to June 30, 2017, Boko Haram deployed 434 bombers to 247 different targets during 238 suicide-bombing attacks. At least 56 per cent of these bombers were women, and at least 81 bombers were specifically identified as children or teenagers.”
The United States Military Academy pointed out that “since the Chibok abductions in April 2014 – suicide bombing has become a feature of Boko Haram’s tactical portfolio, though never a dominant style of attack.”
One of the most contentious conclusions of the report is the claim that, “despite the frequent characterization of the crisis
in the northeast as motivated by religion, our data shows that Boko Haram does not primarily target religious institutions.”
The statistics of the report showed that, “of the 247 suicide attack targets, just 49 were religious institutions, or 19.8 per cent of total suicide attacks. Moreover, among Boko Haram’s suicide bombing attacks on religious targets, Islamic religious institutions were targeted more frequently than Christian institutions. From April 2011 to May 2017, 12 churches were targeted (4.9 per cent of all targets) as compared to 37 mosques and religious Islamic leaders (comprising 14.9 per cent of targets).”
This led to to conclusion that, “this trend not only debunks classifications of Boko Haram as a primarily anti-Christian group.” Jason and Hilary said.
“What however the report failed to consider,” Ven. Mark Mukan, the Missions Operations Director of the Anglican Diocese of Jos, said, “is the claim by the leader of the group himself, Abubakar Shekau, in his propaganda videos declared of war on Christians.” Mukan added that, “the report looked at the beginning of the suicide bombings from 2011 and completely ignored the Christmas eve bombings in Jos in December 2010 that targeted the Christian communities in Jos.” He added.
The report noted that “Boko Haram is most prone to conduct suicide bombings on Sundays. Though intuition might suggest that this is intended to target populations attending church services, our database reveals that Boko Haram has not targeted a church since 2015, prior to the point at which it became increasingly lethal.” Arguing that “rather than targeting Sunday church services, we surmise that the spike on Sundays is attributable to the fact that Sunday is a common market day in Nigeria, which could explain the increased efforts on that particular day.”
Ralp Madugu, Editor, Challenge Magazine, said, “it is too simplistic to assume that Boko Haram’s Sunday attacks are ‘market days’, very few communities, especially in rural areas, have Sundays as their market days. In the cities most businesses are closed because it has always been a holiday or a work free day.” Ralp pointed out that the “41 attacks on various genres of secular non-government targets outside our delimited categories” is simply avoiding the fact that these ‘non-governmental targets have predominantly been Christian communities.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the Plateau State Governor on religious affairs, Nenman Gowon, said, “I think I can fill in an area the report has not addressed. Why the attack on churches seemed to have drastically reduced since 2014 and 2015, was that churches decided to take extra measures, working with security agencies to prevent bombers driving bomb rigged vehicles and suicide bombers into our churches. We ensured that the message circulated all over the north, not just in Jos or northeast.” Nenman added. “The more vulnerable places are our Christian communities and villages which the report ignored. Understandably so because it is not a report about attack on Christians and Christian communities. However, to conclude that more mosques or Muslims have been targeted than churches or Christians is not a completely accurate picture.” He added.
“Boko Haram has claimed, at minimum, 1,934 lives (excluding the lives of the bombers, which adds another 349), for a total of 2,283 total suicide bombing-related deaths,” according to the report.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor for Global Christian News and a priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.
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