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Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram kills 200 civilians in horrifying attack

An demonstration outside the Nigerian consulate in New York demanding that the government bring back girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.
An demonstration outside the Nigerian consulate in New York demanding that the government bring back girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Nigerian militant group Boko Haram killed 200 people on Monday, according to a Thursday report in the Associated Press. The attack is proof that Nigeria's Boko Haram is nowhere near under control — despite all of the international attention paid to the group after it kidnapped roughly 300 girls from their schools.

During the attack, members of the hardline Islamist militant group dressed up like Nigerian soldiers. They then attacked civilians in three villages in Borno, the northeastern Nigerian province where the group is strongest. Some witnesses told the AP that the Nigerian military had advance warning of this attack, and did nothing.


United Nations

Because of porous borders and weak governance in northeastern Nigeria, Boko Haram has so far been almost impossible to stamp out. The Nigerian government's inability to provide basic social services has helped to create an unstable environment in Borno, one where people were open to Boko Haram's radical Islamist criticism of the central government. The group has lost popular support as it has become increasingly violent in the past several years, but the general instability created by an under-resourced government has allowed the group to flourish regardless.

As these deeper problems have persisted, Boko Haram has become increasingly hard to deal with. Boko Haram has splintered into roughly five sub-factions, spread throughout Borno and two other eastern Nigerian provinces, as well as Cameroon and Niger. According to some analysts, it gets military and financial support from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a nearby al-Qaeda affiliate group.

The Nigerian government's response has alternated between brutality and indifference. In 2013, Presidnet Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe, and Adawama states and cracked down on Boko Haram activities. It didn't stamp out the group, and, according to Human Rights Watch, the security forces "engaged in the indiscriminate arrest, detention, torture, and extra-judicial killing of those suspected to be supporters or members of the Islamist group."

The military efforts are often poorly executed in addition to being brutal. In March, for example, when a group of northern Nigerians informed the military that Boko Haram had holed up in their village, the military did nothing for several days, then bombed the village after the Boko Haram fighters had already left. Western officials have occasionally suggested that the Nigerian military may be doing more harm than good. And Nigerians are furious that their government hasn't more effectively dealt with the militant group.

Meanwhile, 10 Nigerian generals stand accused of helping arm Boko Haram. The hundreds of kidnapped girls still remain at large. And Boko Haram slaughters civilians in their villages with impunity.