Boko Haram’s slaughter of 2,000 northeastern Nigerians shows the jihadists have escalated beyond targeting Christians and has placed Nigeria in the midst of a global war against humanity, Nigerian relations expert Adeniyi Ojutiku told Baptist Press Jan. 12.
Hundreds of gunmen invaded Baga and 16 surrounding villages in Borno state beginning Jan. 3, and continued to slaughter residents and burn homes throughout the following week, killing an estimated 2,000 residents. Amnesty International described the attack as Boko Haram’s deadliest to date.
Boko Haram is an international offensive, Ojutiku said, comparable to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
“This no longer Nigeria’s war,” he said. “Whatever the global community is doing with respect to ISIS … they should be doing the same thing with respect to Boko Haram.”
The terrorists, who first targeted Christians in an effort to establish Sharia law in Nigeria, can no longer be considered a problem for Nigeria and Christians only, he said.
This screen capture from cell-phone video footage shows Boko Haram capturing the town of Gwoza, Nigeria, where it has established an "Islamic Caliphate." The terrorists overtake towns with trickery and force, confusing residents by wearing Nigerian military uniforms.
“This is an escalation of the global Islamic agenda, and they have support, heavy support, training, equipment, material, from radical Islamic organizations. The local terrorism has been internationalized,” he said. “The crisis has escalated beyond just killing Christians. … Now there is evidence that this very radical Islamic sect is now devouring their own moderate Muslims. Initially, yes, Christians, but now they are more indiscriminate.”
Nigeria alone cannot be expected to defeat Boko Haram, said Ojutiku, a Southern Baptist in Raleigh, N.C., who has founded Lift Up Now, a grassroots outreach to reform his homeland economically and spiritually.
“Nigeria is fighting a global ideological war. They are also fighting well-trained, formidable forces of anti-civilization. So, there is the ideological war that has been globalized, and Nigeria has been drawn into it,” he said. “If the global community just expects Nigeria to defeat Boko Haram by itself, it’s not going to happen because it’s now a global affair.”
Eyewitnesses to the January attacks said the terrorists killed citizens as though the victims were “insects,” Nigeria’s Premium Times newspaper reported Jan. 12 from accounts of survivors.
“We saw dead bodies especially, on the islands of Lake Chad where fishermen had settled,” the newspaper quoted Yahaya Takakumi, a 55-year-old farmer. “Several persons were killed there like insects.”
Ibrahim Gambo, a 25-year-old truck driver who survived the slaughter, reported horrendous scenes to the Premium Times.
“We came across many dead bodies, some in groups and others by themselves in the bush,” Gambo said. “I saw dead children and women, and even a pregnant woman with her stomach slit open.”
The death toll ranges from hundreds to 2,000, but Nigerian officials have said it’s still too dangerous to count the bodies.
“Dead bodies litter the bushes in the area and it is still not safe to go and pick them [up] for burial,” CNN quoted Musa Bukar, chairman of the Baga local government. “Some people who hid in their homes were burned alive.”
At least 30,000 people were displaced, perhaps 20,000 of them camping in Maiduguri city, the capital of Borno state. Officials are planning to transport some 10,000 others from Monguno town, about 36 miles from Baga, CNN reported.
Satellite imagery should be used to discern a more accurate death toll, Ojutiku told Baptist Press.
“We should have satellite imagery of the carnage, human carnage, and also of the destruction,” he said. “This imagery needs to be broadcast to the world, so that there is no disputation.”
Boko Haram continued its assault Jan. 12, attacking a military base in the northwest Cameroonian city of Kolofata, an area where many of the displaced citizens had fled, Al Jazeera reported.
However, reports could not be verified that Cameroon soldiers had killed between 200 and 300 Boko Haram soldiers in the attack and captured much of their equipment, Al Jazeera reported. Residents fled the city as soon as gunfire erupted, the news agency reported.
The insurgents now control about 20,000 square miles in northeastern Nigeria. Within the past five years, Boko Haram has killed thousands in Nigeria, many of them Christians, and has displaced hundreds of thousands, various watch groups have reported.
(EDITOR’S NOTE Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)