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Steve Coll on Nigeria’s growing Takfiri insurgency

August 3, 2009

a must-read from Steve Coll (Author of the excellent Ghost Wars), on the recent Islamist uprising in Northern Nigeria.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/2009/08/boko-haram.html#entry-more

“Last Sunday, a sizable militia of Boko Haram (it translates as “forbidden education”), which adheres to a fundamentalist sect opposed to all concepts arising from Western education, attacked police stations, a prison, Christian churches, and rival Islamic mosques. The group was not particularly well known in Nigeria judging by the subsequent newspaper coverage, although similar violent campaigns to impose Shariah law in the north are by now common. This attack began initially in Maidurgi, the capital of Borno State, but soon inspired some parallel revolts (or triggered previously planned coördinated attacks) in some other states. The fighting was violent and often indiscriminate. Nigerian police took some initial heavy losses and then, with the army in support, counterattacked ruthlessly. They captured the sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, and apparently executed him in custody, although the police later claimed that he had died trying to escape, or had been initially wounded mortally in battle, depending upon the spokesman trying to calm international reaction. (Dying while supposedly trying to escape police custody, sometimes while still in shackles, is not an unusual fate in Nigeria.) Later in the week, Nigerian security forces captured Boko Haram’s alleged financier, who had previously been commissioner of religious affairs in the state government. The police executed him, too—this time, a spokesman said the victim had received summary trial on treason charges. The total death toll from the episode apparently runs into the hundreds”

Map of northern Nigerian states under Sharia law:

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