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Vigilante and local hunters armed with locally made guns gather before a patrol to protect their town from Boko Haram gunmen, Yola, Nigeria, Nov. 25, 2014 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

The Logic Behind Boko Haram’s Brutal Attacks in Nigeria

Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015

The first weeks of 2015 have already brought repeated, shocking attacks by Boko Haram in and around Nigeria. Within the country’s northeastern state of Borno, the home turf of the proselytizing sect-turned-Islamist-group, militants massacred hundreds of civilians in Baga, site of a multinational military base. Suicide bombers attacked Maiduguri and Potiskum, the latter on three occasions. In a continuation of last year’s trends, Boko Haram’s violence spilled once again into northern Cameroon, where militants kidnapped dozens of children and adults in villages near Mokolo.

Some commentators, including Kenan Malik in the New York Times, argue that “jihadists have turned terror into an end in itself,” but there is a logic behind Boko Haram’s attacks. The group nurses ambitions of destroying the Nigerian state, especially in the northeast. This ambition is a long-term one: Even as Nigeria’s Feb. 14 general elections approach, Boko Haram is behaving as though it plans to trouble Nigerian authorities for years to come. ...

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