[QODLink]
Africa
Profile: Boko Haram
Fighters opposed to Western education seek Islamic law across country.
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2010 15:16 GMT

The group's alleged leader has reportedly said that the war will 'continue for long' [AFP]

The group behind the latest violence in northern Nigeria is known by several different names, including al-Sunnah wal Jamma, or Followers of Muhammad's Teachings in Arabic, and Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden" in the local Hausa dialect.

The group was founded in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, allegedly by Mohammed Yusuf, a religious teacher.

In 2004, it moved to Kanamma in Yobe state, close to the border with Niger, where it set up a base dubbed "Afghanistan", from which it attacked nearby police outposts.

'Long war'

Boko Haram, which includes members who come from neighbouring Chad, is said to not only oppose Western education, but Western culture as well.

The latest fighting has left scores of
people dead [Reuters]
Abdulmuni Ibrahim Mohammed, a senior member of the group arrested on Monday, told the Reuters news agency that "we do not believe in Western education. It corrupts our ideas and beliefs".

"That is why we are standing up to defend our religion".

Yusuf has reportedly said that the war will "continue for long".

The latest clashes began in Dutsen Tenshin, a neighbourhood of the city of Bauchi, capital of the state of the same name.

Bauchi is one of 12 states in northern Nigeria where sharia, or Islamic law, is practiced.

Sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians in Bauchi state in February left at least five people dead.

Muslims attacked Christians and set fire to churches in retaliation for the burning of two mosques, which had been blamed on Christians.

Last November, more than 700 were killed in Jos, capital of Plateau state, when a political feud over a local election degenerated into bloody confrontation between Muslims and Christians.

Government blamed

Salisu Mohammed, a conflict management specialist, told Al Jazeera that Nigerian authorities should have acted sooner to stop the proliferation of Boko Haram.

"Many people have known of the existence of this group, silently and within the community, especially in the last year," he said.

"They are becoming more extreme because in the past there wasn't a major push in place to check their proliferation.

"They are taking advantage of a broken-down structural condition in Nigeria that people can take the law into their hands without getting reprimanded."

Analysts have also said that at the heart of this week's violence is dire poverty and political manoeuvring - not religion.

They believe attacks were committed mainly by frustrated, unemployed youths and orchestrated by religious leaders and politicians who manipulate them to retain power.

Mohammed Yusuf, the group's leader, was killed in the aftermath of clashes between Boko Haram and Nigerian police in August 2009.

The police said that he was killed while trying to escape from custody, but his body was found in the street, still handcuffed, raising concerns that he had been the victim of an extrajudicial killing.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
Residents count the cost of violence after black American teenager shot dead by white Missouri police officer.
join our mailing list