Nigeria: jihadists massacre rice farmers and seasonal workers

Nigeria: jihadists massacre rice farmers and seasonal workers

Rice harvest in Nigeria. Iconic image: Chukwukajustice. License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Death toll rises from 43 to 110

According to the latest figures from UN coordinator Edward Kallon, not just 43 but at least 110 people were killed in a massacre in Nigeria on Saturday. The crime scenes were rice fields near Koschobe in Borno state, and the victims were mainly rice farmers and migrant workers who had come to Borno from Sokoto state to harvest rice.

Burgerwehr names Boko Haram as culprit

Kallon does not give details of the perpetrators, who came on motorcycles, tied up their victims and then cut their throats. However, Babakura Kolo and Ibrahim Liman, two members of a local militia, are certain that the perpetrators were jihadists from Boko Haram.

Boko Haram emerged in the early 1990s from the teachings of Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, a Nigerian Islamist leader who has since been shot dead. Yusuf explicitly rejected not only the idea of evolution and physical knowledge about the structure of the earth, but also the explanation that rain is caused by evaporation. Moreover, the Islamist, who was born in 1970 in the village of Girgir in the state of Yobe, preached that education corrupts faith in Allah "corrupt" became. This also explains the name of the group: "Bolko" stands in the house for education and found over the English word "Book" into the lingua franca of northern Nigeria. "Harem" is the Arabic term used in Islam for forbidden things (cf. "Education is sin").

In the late noughties, Boko Haram went from military training in a camp located in northern Nigeria called "Afghanistan" to attack churches, prisons, police stations and other government facilities in the Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe and Kano. The group was so successful that it partially controlled an area the size of Ireland.

Other possibilities: ISWAP and Fulbe gangs

In 2015, Abubakar Shekau, then the leader of Boko Haram, pledged allegiance to IS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (cf. IS caliphate becomes at least 70.000 square kilometers). He named his territory "Wilayat Garb Ifrqiya", the "West African province".

After Abubakar Shekau was deprived of power in 2016, Boko Haram split into a group operating independently of IS and commonly known as Boko Haram again "Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Whale Jihad" and to the "Islamic State of West Africa Province" (ISWAP). Whether the jihadists perpetrating massacres in Nigeria feel allegiance to this ISWAP or the other Boko Haram fission products is difficult to discern as long as they do not leave confessional messages. A third group of perpetrators that came into question were armed Fulbe gangs, which also perpetrate massacres in a similar manner (cf. Nigeria: The Mexico of Africa).

Light victims

Since the Nigerian leadership has been expelling and demanding burger rifles in the fight against Boko Haram and ISWAP, the jihadists’ raids seem to be shifting from villages to woodworkers, fishermen, herders and field workers. There, the killers of God must expect less resistance than in the now better defended villages. As recently as October, 22 harvesters were killed in a mass slaughter near Maiduguri. Koschobe is also near that city, where local elections were held over the weekend for the first time since 2009. Since then, they have been repeatedly postponed due to jihadist terror and are being treated as a possible symbolic target of Saturday’s massacre.

Christians are not only a symbolic, but often also a concrete target of jihadists: According to new information in the Kronen-Zeitung, the Vienna IS terrorist Kujtim Fejzulai also had them in his sights: He allegedly tried to break into a prayer meeting of a Catholic children’s and youth group, but failed because of a time lock. If this had not stopped him, today not only four adults, but also 17 children and teenagers might have been dead. Now the Austrian Minister of the Interior, Karl Nehammer, has announced that churches will be better protected during the Advent and Christmas season.

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