Islamist terror group Boko Haram–whose goal is to eradicate Christianity from Nigeria and impose Sharia law through violence–has increased its manpower in droves by bribing unemployed teens from Niger to commit unspeakable acts of terror for money.
The BBC reports that many teens on the Niger/Nigeria border town of Diffa can be seen wearing gaudy clothing and displaying the sort of wealth that high schoolers have no business possessing. Boko Haram, whose number of committed ideologues is dwindling, have resorted to bribing these young men to commit their terror acts for them, promising significant payments if the plans succeed.
“If they tell you to set off a bomb and it succeeds, if it kills a lot of people, they will pay you a lot of money,” one Boko Haram teen mercenary told the BBC. The group that felt comfortable discussing their work with the BBC said they were paid about $3,085 to leave Niger and attack Christians in Nigeria. While getting less money, those who stayed in Niger also received payments in exchange for information about refugees or police activity.
The group freely admits to drug and alcohol abuse to handle their lifestyle. One member said the group “break[s] into houses for cash; sometimes we beat people for money,” and some of that money invariably goes to opiates, marijuana, and alcohol. This same gang member noted that some of his colleagues were still attending high school while participating in Boko Haram activities.
The group universally disavowed Boko Haram’s Islamist agenda. “We only do it for the money,” they say, denying that they have any interest in radical political Islam.
As Boko Haram has increasingly resorted to violence–first against Christian men, and now against young girls–the Nigerian government has become more and more unable to handle the threat. While the group operates mostly in the northeastern state of Borno, its leader, Abubakar Shekau, has claimed that Boko Haram terrorists are also currently operating in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
Last week, Boko Haram took credit for the kidnapping of more than 200 girls in Borno, most of which continue to remain missing, with the Nigerian government reporting little they can do to help. The girls, Christians, are converted into slave brides–forced to convert to Islam, cook, and clean for the terror gang, and eventually marry into Boko Haram. Shekau also released a video claiming that Boko Haram was freely operating in Abuja after taking credit for a deadly bus bombing in the capital.
The Nigerian Tribune reported this week that one of the greatest problems with targeting Boko Haram is their use of camouflage to deflect military attacks. One source told the newspaper “authoritatively that the insurgent group made use of used oil and sand to coat the body of the vehicles which they used in their attack,” rendering their vehicles invisible from above. For months, the Nigerian Air Force had no idea that the trick worked, until a captured militant divulged the information.
As Boko Haram continues to expand, whether with ideologues or mercenaries, the international security threat the group poses grows. A study released this month found that African governments tended to negotiate with terrorists at higher rates when the acts of terror were more severe. Since few are more severe than the attacks on children and assorted bombings of Boko Haram, many expect President Goodluck Jonathan to respond to the group by bringing them to the negotiating table–where townspeople fleeing out of Borno to Niger or forced to live in villages under Boko Haram’s control will be of minor importance compared to protecting the nation’s capital.