Killing and preaching, Nigerian Islamist militants carve out their “caliphate”

September 9, 2014
(Girls recite Quranic verses at an Islamic school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, May 24, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney )

(Girls recite Quranic verses at an Islamic school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, May 24, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney)

First comes the killing, then the preaching.

Islamist Boko Haram militants carrying automatic rifles and machetes roar into northeast Nigerian towns or hamlets in columns of pickup trucks and motorbikes and fire at all adult men they see. They often finish them off with knives.

When they have hoisted their black flag inscribed with Koranic verses over government offices or the local emir’s palace, they tell the surviving women they will marry them and “live in peace”, according to survivors who escaped from the town of Gwoza, seized by Boko Haram last month.

Escapees from other seized northeast towns, such as Madagali, say the Islamists also torch churches, and force Christian women to convert to Islam under pain of death.

Slaughtering and preaching a “better life under Islamic rule”, the jihadist group has taken over a string of locations in recent weeks in Nigeria’s remote northeast, in what looks like a plan to seize and hold a “Muslim territory” or caliphate, apparently inspired by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

In Gwoza last month, near the Cameroon border, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau declared such an Islamic-ruled enclave. He made the proclamation in a video showing his fighters running amok, firing in all directions and killing captives. They rode in pick-up trucks and captured army vehicles, including at least one armoured car.

The conquests are a departure from Boko Haram’s usual hit-and-run tactics. Shekau is believed to be mimicking the IS proclamation of its caliphate which caused alarm in the Middle East and West amid fears of an upsurge in jihadist attacks.

Read the full story by Isaac Abrak here.

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