The world has woken slowly to the horror unfolding in Nigeria at the hand of another militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, and its particularly terrible brand of terrorism.
It took the United States three weeks after more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted by armed men to react with aid. American news outlets, until this week, were spending exponentially more time on the much-older news of the missing Malaysian airplane.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan must shoulder some of the blame for failing to publicly address this tragedy until just a few days ago, perhaps concerned that Wednesday’s meeting of the World Economic Forum in Nigeria might be compromised. An aggressive social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, did what Nigeria’s president should have done to spark international interest and fan the growing flame of outrage.
Boko Haram is not new, having operated in Nigeria for about a decade. But its power has grown, and it is fast becoming a terrorist organization with global implications. Amnesty International estimates the group killed at least 1,500 people in the first three months of 2014. That does not include the estimated 300 people killed by armed men suspected to belong to Boko Haram in a brutal 12-hour attack on a village Monday.
“Terrorist groups like Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb have been gaining strength, and we must not allow a safe haven to develop from which these groups can grow, plan and launch attacks,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement Wednesday.
Good sentiment, but it seems that has already happened. President Barack Obama on Tuesday promised to send a team of advisers and experts to help with the search. Help from the U.S. and other countries will probably be too late to save many, if not all, of those girls taken in that initial abduction. A leader of the Boko Haram boasted in a video that he was selling the girls into marriage. But it may not be too late for the handful snatched from another village Sunday – or for those who might be taken or slaughtered in the next example of this new twist on terrorism.
Now that global attention has focused on Nigeria, it should stay to shine the light on Boko Haram and its atrocities.