By Jennifer M. Haralambides
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Security forces in Nigeria have recently freed around 200 women and children who were being held captive during a crackdown on the radical Islamic sect responsible for the violence that has been sweeping the country, killing over 150 people.
The leader of the radical group involved in the violence, the Boko Haram, is Mohammed Yusuf. Security forces and soldiers surrounded parts of a compound that houses the leader in the city of Maiduguri, destroying buildings including a small mosque. During this raid they did not find the leader, his whereabouts are still unknown.
In search of his Yusuf’s followers, joint military and armed forces went from house to house arresting more than 100 people. A major obstacle the troops face is that there are sill civilians in some of the neighborhoods, and troops need to be careful. Human rights activists have counted at least 10 new bodies of those who have fallen victim to this religious clash.
Recently, police declared that they have freed over 180 women and children whose husbands were among Yusuf’s followers. Some of the men had been found with home-made guns and explosives believed to be planning attacks.
“These people have been organized and are penetrating our society and procuring arms and gathering information on how to make explosions and bombs to force their view on the rest of Nigerians,” said President Umaru Yar’Adua.
The Boko Haram, which translates to, “Western education is a sin,” in the Hausa language which is spoken across Nigeria is said to be modeled on the Taliban movement, and is sometimes called the “Nigerian Taliban.” Its followers wear long beards and read or black headscarves and recognize only their own interpretations of sharia law.
For more information, please see:
AFP – Nigeria Fighting Rages as Death Toll Passes 300 – 29 July 2009
BBC – Captives Freed in Nigerian City – 29 July 2009
Reuters – Nigeria Hunts Islamic Sect, Women and Children Freed – 29 July 2009