Recent tragic events have brought increased attention to international terrorist groups, specifically the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The atrocities committed in Paris and Beirut in the last few weeks have been condemned by nations and have sparked calls for decisive action against ISIL and other terror groups.

While the attacks on Paris and Beirut were horrible and more than 150 civilians were killed, thousands of other innocents have been killed in the last few years at the hands of another terror group – yet there has been hardly a similar outcry. The actions of Boko Haram should warrant a response by the media and by global leaders comparable to those provoked by ISIL.

Boko Haram is a deadly Nigerian terror group that originally began as an anti-western education organization and has since become increasingly militant and hopes to institute Sharia law in Nigeria and neighboring countries.

Boko Haram is often overlooked as a major terror organization because the atrocities are confined to Africa. It has pledged allegiance to ISIL, and while it is not taking credit for attacks around the globe, the terror it has caused in Nigeria and neighboring countries is significant.

Over two days in February Boko Haram killed more than 300 people in the Nigerian state of Borno; however there was no global outcry for the immediate destruction of the extremist group.

The most attention Boko Haram has attracted was when members of the terror group kidnapped 200-300 girls from a secondary school and killed at least 30 others in the town of Chibok in eastern Nigeria. This tragedy sparked some media coverage, with celebrities including First Lady Michelle Obama weighing in with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. However the international military response was fairly limited with the United States, Britain and China simply sending military consultants.

The Nigerian army has been actively resisting Boko Haram militants and actually pushed Boko Haram into the Sambisa Mountains close to Cameroon, however since 2009 the terror group has killed thousands of people and abducted hundreds more.

Unlike ISIL, which apparently has a vast network of members recruited over the Internet; all the members of Boko Haram are concentrated in Nigeria and have gained traction through seizures of weapons and raids on banks.

Eliminating poverty in the region is not the only way to combat Boko Haram as many analysts claim. That should be a long-term goal whether or not there is a terror group committing atrocities; however there are other ways to fight Boko Haram that protect the citizens of Nigeria in the short term. With proper military intervention in the region, meaning more than just the Nigerian army, Boko Haram could be significantly weakened.

The eradication of poverty and the full integration of Muslims into Nigerian society could severely weaken the root cause of extremism and militancy. However that is an enormous undertaking, requires many years and resources, and is a struggle even for many African nations that are not battling a terror group.

The localized nature of Boko Haram contributes to the lack of international intervention even though it has been as deadly as any terror group over the last few years. While ISIL has the capability of taking victims globally Boko Haram has proven that it also has the aptitude for killing large numbers of people; however so far they all reside in Nigeria or neighboring countries.

The consideration of Boko Haram as its own distinct entity shields it from any intervention an ISIL cell would warrant. If instead of acting as Boko Haram these atrocities had been committed as ISIL there would be boots on the ground in Nigeria.

Its geographic location has also aided its longevity. Imagine if Boko Haram were located in North America or a European country: the United States or any other NATO member would never allow for such a terror group to persist in its midst. Localization should not prevent the world from dealing with Boko Haram as if it were any other terror organization.

The international community should ignore all these biases and treat Boko Haram with the same severity it would treat any other terror group, even as steps are taken to combat ISIL.

(Written by Theron Simpson, edited by Terril Y. Jones; Nov. 22, 2015)


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