FaithWorld

Boko Haram Islamists, after hitting churches, warn of more attacks on media

(Burnt newspaper copies are seen in the rubble of a destroyed This Day newspaper building in Abuja April 28, 2012. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

Islamist group Boko Haram released a video late on Tuesday celebrating its bombing of a Nigerian newspaper and warning of more attacks on local and foreign media if they published reports that were biased to the sect or insulting to Islam.  Suicide car bombers targeted the offices of This Day in the capital, Abuja, and northern city of Kaduna last Thursday, killing at least five people in apparently coordinated strikes.

Boko Haram has been fighting a low-level insurgency for more than two years and has become the main security threat facing Africa’s top oil producer, although most attacks have been in the largely Muslim north, far from southern oil fields. The sect, which wants to impose an Islamic state on Nigeria’s more or less evenly mixed population of Muslim and Christians, has been blamed for hundreds of killings since its uprising against the government in 2009.

It had not previously targeted the press in its bombing campaign, although last October it killed a reporter for state TV who the sect said was an informant to President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

The video posted on the Internet opens with a Koranic song and a drawing of the Koran sitting on two crossed AK-47s. A banner in the northern Hausa language says: “Message from Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihadl (Boko Haram’s full name): on why we attacked ThisDay”.

Nigeria starts mediated talks with violent Islamist sect Boko Haram

(People watch as boy scouts carry the coffins of the victims of the Christmas day bombing at St Theresa Catholic Church Madalla, during a mass funeral for the victims, outside Nigeria's capital Abuja February 1, 2012. Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, which killed 37 people and wounded 57, the deadliest of a series of a attacks on Christmas Day in 2011. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

Nigeria’s government has in the last week held its first indirect peace talks with Islamist sect Boko Haram, meeting mediators to discuss a possible ceasefire, political and diplomatic sources have told Reuters.

Two people close to Boko Haram have been carrying messages back and forth between the sect’s self-proclaimed leader Abubakar Shekau and government officials, the sources, who asked not to be named, said.

Factbox-What is Nigeria’s violent Islamist sect Boko Haram?

(A car burns at the scene of a bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja, just outside Nigeria's capital Abuja, December 25, 2011. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde )

Nigeria has held its first indirect peace talks with Islamist sect Boko Haram, meeting mediators to discuss a possible ceasefire, political and diplomatic sources have said,

Here are some facts about Boko Haram:

* Boko Haram became active in about 2003 and is concentrated mainly in the northern Nigerian states of Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna.

from The Great Debate:

How to tackle the child marriage crisis

By the end of today another 25,000 young children will have been robbed of their childhoods, cheated of their right to an education, exposed to life-threatening health risks, and set on a path that often leads to a life of servitude and poverty. Their plight is the result of widespread and systematic human rights violations. Yet the source of the injustice they suffer is hidden in the shadows of debates on international development: They are child brides.

Each year, 1.5 million girls -- many just starting their adolescent years -- become child brides. It was shocking for us to discover the sheer scale of the problem and to understand its impact on human rights and the life cycle of opportunities, and most tragically of all, on maternal and infant death rates.

Early marriage is a hidden crisis. Because the victims are overwhelmingly young, poor and female, their voices are seldom heard by governments. Their concerns do not register on the agendas of global summits. But early marriage is destroying human potential and reinforcing gender inequalities on a global scale. It is subjecting young girls to the elevated health risks that come with early pregnancy and childbirth. It is reinforcing the subordination of women. And it is holding back progress toward the United Nation’s 2015 goal of universal primary education. Without educating girls who are not in school today and preventing them from marrying, we cannot ever hope to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Special Report: Nigeria’s Boko Haram – between rebellion and jihad

(A man walks through the ruins of a zonal police headquarters after a bomb attack in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, January 21, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer)

At about 10.40 one morning last August, Mohammed Abul Barra rammed his ash-colored station wagon into a security gate outside the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, knocking it off its hinges. Barra’s 1996 Honda Accord then crashed through the main building’s glass doors and slammed against the reception desk.

On security tapes of the incident seen by Reuters, a guard peers into the car, evidently unaware that it is packed with explosives. The grainy footage shows a dozen or so people in the reception edge towards the vehicle. Over 10 seconds pass in confusion before one man seemingly realizes what is about to happen. He grabs the person next to him and darts towards the lift. But it’s too late. Barra steadies himself, leans forward and the security screens blur into white fuzz.

Nigeria’s President Jonathan tells Boko Haram Islamists to come out and talk

(Emir of Kano Ado Bayero (R) welcomes President Goodluck Jonathan during his visit to the northern city of Kano January 22, 2012, following bomb attacks that took place on Friday. REUTERS/Stringer)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan challenged the violent Islamist Boko Haram sect on Thursday to identify themselves and state clearly their demands as a basis for talks, while acknowledging that military confrontation alone will not end their insurgency.

In an interview with Reuters at the presidential villa in the capital Abuja, Jonathan said there was no doubt that Boko Haram had links with other jihadist groups outside Nigeria.

Nigerian police find bomb-filled cars in Kano after Boko Haram attacks killed 178

(Red Cross officials load bodies into a truck in Nigeria's northern city of Kano January 21, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer)

Nigerian police said they found cars and vans filled with explosives in the northern city of Kano on Monday, three days after Islamist sect Boko Haram carried out a deadly attack there. Security in Nigeria’s second largest city has been beefed up since Friday when bomb attacks and fierce gun battles between the sect and police killed at least 178 people.

“The police were on a stop-and-search today and in two of the checkpoints, the Boko Haram members on sighting the checkpoints abandoned their vehicles and ran,” a high-level police officer told Reuters, asking not to be named. “The vehicles were later checked and the cars were loaded with explosives. Two brand new Hilux open pick-up vans were also found packed with explosives in the Bompai area of Kano.”

Would-be presidents court Senegal’s holy kingmakers

(A woman walks past a mural of Senegalese Mouride Brotherhood's figurehead and spiritual guide, the late Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke, in Dakar, January 19, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Penney )

It is not everyday that Senegal’s octogenarian president Abdoulaye Wade lets the television cameras into his bedroom. But Wade, seeking a new term in next month’s election, was quick to usher them in when his visitor was Serigne Abo Mbacke, a leader of the Mourides, 129-year-old Sufi order of Islam that counts millions of devotees in his West African country.

The ensuing images of two men demurely perched next to each other on a king-size divan may not have made great television. But the photo opportunity was not lost to voters as proof of the intimate link between Senegal’s Sufi fraternities and the body politic of this Muslim but staunchly secular state.

Nigeria’s radical Islamist Boko Haram ups it’s game, but it’s not Al Qaeda

(Security forces view the scene of a bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja, just outside Nigeria's capital Abuja, December 25, 2011. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

With a YouTube video reminiscent of the broadcasts of Osama bin Laden, Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram seems keen to paint itself as part of a wider global jihad. But in reality, their concerns and focus look to remain almost entirely Nigerian. Whilst recent high-profile attacks including the bombing of a United Nations compound in August resembled Islamist attacks long common elsewhere, analysts say there remain few proven links to similar militants elsewhere.

Instead, it is seen much more focused on domestic issues — part of a wider swelling of discontent against the current mainly southern and Christian leadership. But there is little doubt it is growing in both power and momentum.

Leader of violent Nigerian Islamist group defends killing Christians in video

(A victim lies on the ground after a bomb attack in Abuja in this December 25, 2011 still image taken from video. Islamist militant group Boko Haram said it planted bombs that exploded on Christmas Day at churches in Nigeria, one of which killed at least 27 people on the outskirts of the capital. REUTERS/via Reuters TV)

The leader of Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram said recent killings of Christians were justifiable revenge attacks and President Goodluck Jonathan had no power to stop the group’s insurgency, in the first video of him posted online. The 15 minute video of Abubakar Shekau posted on YouTube is similar in style to messages submitted by other Islamist groups like al Qaeda, a sign of the growing influence other jihadist movements are having on the sect.

Boko Haram, whose name translates from the northern Hausa language as “Western education is sinful”, has been behind almost daily killings in its home base in the largely Muslim northeast, most recently targeting Christians.