Information and news about terrorism

boko haram
Nigeria’s militant Islamic group, Boko Haram, has created havoc in Africa’s most populous country. The militia, whose name translates to “Western education is sin,” has kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls in the village of Chibok and has threatened to sell them as child brides. Their primary objective is to create an Islamic state that would forbid Muslims to abide by or be influenced by Western culture. Thus, schools have served as a common battlefield. Additionally, battles have occurred in churches, police stations and all those opposed to the ideas of the militants. Without a proper education, these girls will continue to suffer the consequences of extreme poverty and related health risks.

Similarly in Afghanistan, the Taliban imposed strict restrictions on women during their rule from the late 1990s to 2001. They banned women from studying in schools, working outside the homes and took away most of their behavioral and personal freedom due to an extreme interpretation of the Koran. Women were pressured into adhering to their traditional roles, being forced to stay at home to take care of the children and the house. The Taliban also was opposed to Western influence, and it banned music, movies, cosmetics and brightly colored clothing, creating laws to punish those who did not wear the proper clothing, such as the burqa, for women.

In both situations, women’s rights have been and still are on the road to being taken away. Boko Haram has been accused of having communications with and training from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Islamic Maghreb. This is also true for the Taliban, who have had immense support and imported fighters from Al-Qaeda. Both groups want to see a change in government and have Shari’a law implemented in their respective countries.

In a divided country of Christians and Muslims, Nigeria has faced many problems, despite the abundance of oil and natural resources that exist in the country. The militia mainly blames the modern and secular government for bad governance and underdevelopment. In Afghanistan, the Taliban rose after the invasion of the Soviet Union to bring back stability into the country and instill rule of law in place of corruption. The strict restrictions on women were an effect of Shari’a law.

Without education for women, the countries’ development will be hindered and the population’s health will dramatically decrease. Afghanistan already has one of the lowest Human Development Indexes in the world and suffers from a complete lack of healthcare providers and facilities. Unfortunately, both Afghanistan and Nigeria face severe challenges and a future that does not seem as bright as it could be.

Leeda Jewayni

Sources: CNN, CFR 1, CFR 2
Photo: Flickr

isis destroys ruins

Centuries of history destroyed in less than a second. No, this is not a nightmare, but rather photographic and video evidence published by the British Broadcasting Corporation capturing the moment in which members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) destroyed the Tomb of Jonah in Mosul, Iraq.
Despite his appearance in Islam, Christianity and Judaism, the Jonah’s shrine joined the list of ancient relics to be destroyed by the Sunni extremist group in Iraq’s second largest city.
Believers thought the site to be the final resting place of the prophet. Locals—many of whom welcomed the arrival of ISIS forces—condemned the destruction of the ancient spot and the religious texts the group failed to remove from within beforehand.
The past couple of weeks have witnessed similar demolitions of a 14th century mosque and shrine to Nabi Jerjis and the “Girl’s Tomb” in Mosul, as well as the Ahmed al-Rifai and Saad bin Aquel Husseiniya shrines in the Tal Afar area.
United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General, Ms. Irina Bokova, issued a statement on July 26, saying, “I am shocked by this violence against the millennial heritage of Iraq – destroying places of religious and cultural significance is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.” The agency worked with Iraqis last week to create the Response Action Plan that “defines priority interventions to mitigate heightened risks.” UNESCO joins the U.N. Secretary-General, the United States and Iran in denouncing the group as a threat to stability in the region.
ISIS also released a statement claiming absolute legitimacy in its actions. The group, which the U.S. has deemed worse than al-Qaeda, believes special emphasis on grave sites and relics contradict the true teachings of Islam. In fact, the extremists have dedicated an entire battalion to choosing which sites to target next. These members are charged with following certain guidelines such as eliminating any mosque standing on a tomb.
Locals who did not already flee the area have begun to demonstrate their frustration with ISIS. The ancient minaret of Mosul – a famous landmark in the city – was the next ISIS target, before citizens confronted and stopped the militants. As of July 31, ISIS has not destroyed the minaret. In another act of defiance, assailants shot and killed two ISIS members in the street on July 27.
The people of Mosul originally celebrated the victory of ISIS in opposition to the government, but the events in July have cost ISIS support from the locals. ISIS has severely limited human rights in its occupied land in an attempt to form a new caliphate with sharia law. Poverty in the province largely weakened opposition to the Sunni group, and according to the World Bank, the poverty rates in the region rose to 32 percent in 2012. This figure exceeds the national average by 12.2 percent, and would help explain why citizens might feel neglected. This, perhaps, would also explain why to a people with so little, these ancient relics would mean so much.
Erica Lignell

Sources: Bloomberg, BBC, BBC 2, The Guardian, The Guardian 2, NBC News, NY Times, UNESCO
Photo: BBC

sanctions on hezbollah
On July 22, the House of Representatives voted 404-0 to pass legislation that would introduce sanctions on Hezbollah and its foreign assets. Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States since 1995, and operates out of Lebanon. The sanctions aim to financially cripple the group, in turn protecting the Lebanese people from further poverty.

Hezbollah has played a critical role in the conflict in Syria. In April of 2014, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, boldly stated that the war had essentially ended. He asserted that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had regained control of the country and had won.

Nasrallah spoke as Hezbollah continued to intensify involvement in the conflict, fighting for Assad’s continued reign.

The reaction in Lebanon to Hezbollah’s involvement has been tense, as many fear it may carry the conflict back to Lebanon.

Even without the war taking place in Lebanon, the people feel the effects of the Syrian conflict. As hundreds of thousands of refugees pour into Lebanon, the economy is slipping.

“For each of the conflict years, we found that growth has been 2.9 percent lower than [had the conflict not happened]” Eric Le Borgne, lead Lebanon economist for The World Bank, explains.

IRIN reported in 2013 that 170,000 Lebanese were in danger of falling into poverty for reasons caused by the Syrian conflict. Lebanon is a small country, with a population of only four million, and cannot withstand the surge of 800,000 refugees.

The Syrian conflict, which has generated poverty and destruction outside its borders, not only in Lebanon, but also in other refugee-host countries, such as Afghanistan, has been escalated by foreign involvement. Hezbollah is one of the main contributors to the violence.

Furthermore, Hezbollah is known to be in close alliance with the Iranian government. Recently, Iranian news agency, Fars, published an article titled Iran Urges Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese Resistance Groups to Ink Defense Pact.

Effectively, this means that an attack on one of the groups from Israel would constitute an attack on all of them. The defense pact would heighten tensions in the region, and any attack on one group would involve multiple countries.

Analyzing the effects of the conflict in Syria on Lebanese poverty alone provides reason enough to avoid inflaming conflict.

The new sanctions passed in the House are an important step against poverty. The sanctions would specifically target Hezbollah’s foreign finances by allowing the Department of the Treasury to deny payable-through accounts in the U.S. through foreign financial institutions connected to Hezbollah activity.

The legislation would also allow the President to officially categorize Hezbollah as a foreign narcotics trafficker and transnational criminal organization in addition to its terrorist organization designation.

“Today we have the opportunity to place a critical blow to Hezbollah,” said Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the bill’s sponsor. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., compared these sanctions to the ones placed on Iran over its nuclear weapons development. Engel proposed that the current negotiations with Iran are happening because of the international sanctions.

“This can be done with Hezbollah. This is what we’re trying to do today,” he says, providing a beacon of hope for further peace in the region.

Julianne O’Connor

Sources: The Algemeiner, IRIN, The Guardian, The Hill
Photo: NYTimes

instability facing nigeria
On July 24, 2014 an estimated 82 people were killed in a northern Nigerian city due to the blast of two bombs. The source of the bombs leads to the Islamist terrorist group in the area, Boko Haram.

Nigerian forces are currently at war with the terrorist group, and there is heavy speculation that the suicide bombs were a ploy to distract their attention from the war zone to a heavily populated area a few hundred miles away.

Both events seem to be targeting influential political figures in Nigeria. The first target was “Muslim cleric, Sheik Dahiru Bauchi, who has repeatedly condemned terrorism as un-Islamic,” according to the Wall Street Journal. He coincidentally missed the attack by minutes, leaving civilians as the only victims of the first bomb.

The second target was “Mohammadu Buhari, the ex-military dictator who remains the country’s top opposition leader.” With both attacks at the intended targets turning into failures, the only victims were helpless civilians who got caught in the crossfire.

This is not Boko Haram’s first attempt to create havoc in Nigerian cities, as they have bombed myriad other areas while trying to gain control of certain war-torn areas.

Nigeria’s financial stability is questionable at best, but the attacks have forced the President into pouring money the country may not have into military efforts in order to protect and police the country. It’s reported that over $1 billion have gone into the military fund as a result of these attacks.

Nigeria is acknowledging the public: “We call on Nigerian authorities to fully investigate these attacks,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. “We urge all Nigerians to avoid reprisals and continue to practice the interfaith cooperation that violent extremists seek to undermine.”

It’s hugely important to acknowledge that the terrorist group behind these bombings are the same people that have kidnapped over 200 young girls, drawing international attention to the Nigerian political stage. The ruthlessness of their actions demonstrates the fact that little will stop them before they reach their goals of control of the nation.

Attacks on civilians are another of the many actions Boko Haram has taken to make its point clear, their brutality is unmatched in the area and the terrorists have little trouble demonstrating it at any given time.

The instability facing Nigeria is nearing its peak and it is beginning to look like there is a high chance that these attacks will manifest into a full out war within the nation, with unknown risks on the line. Nigeria has few resources to aid them, causing the strength of the country to waver in the eyes of civilians.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press
Photo: Associated Press

malala
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist who in 2012 survived gunshots during a Taliban assassination attempt, met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to urge him to meet with the parents of recently kidnapped schoolgirls.

Since the age of 11, Malala has advocated for girls’ education, which led to the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. When they tried to assassinate her in 2012 — when she was just 15 years old — they failed.

As a result, Malala dedicated her life to activism, spreading a message on the importance of education and urging political leaders to help young women in need.

Malala therefore felt deeply concerned about the 276 girls abducted from a secondary school by Boko Haram in Chibok, a region of northeast Nigeria. The girls were abducted on April 14, and 219 of them are still missing.

In a recent video, Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, announced that he would only release the girls if the Nigerian government released imprisoned Boko Haram fighters. In the video, Shekau also greeted Al Qaeda and other prominent terrorist leaders across the Middle East, and denounced democracy and all forms of Western education.

He ended the video by firing an AK-47 rifle into the air in a show of violence.

“Nigerians are saying ‘bring back our girls’ and we are telling [President Jonathan] to bring back our arrested warriors, our army,” Shekau said.

Malala spent July 14, a date designated international “Malala Day” by the United Nations, visiting with the Nigerian President, urging him to do everything in his power to free the girls captured by the Boko Haram militant group.

“As we celebrate Malala Day on July 14, I have both hope and heartbreak,” Malala said. “I did not think that, just one year after my U.N. speech, more than 200 girls would be kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram simply for wanting to go to school. These girls are my sisters.”

During Malala’s meeting, President Jonathan agreed to meet with the parents of the abducted schoolgirls. He also promised scholarships to all of them once they were released.

“The president has expressed his solidarity with those girls and his sadness,” Malala said. “He has assured that these girls will come back home safely.”

She went on to say that the president is currently considering the safest option to bring them home.

Malala cited over 66 million girls lacking access to education worldwide. She blames the lack of education on the large numbers of child brides in her home country of Pakistan. She feels that if young women are allowed to go to school and given more opportunities, they will not so readily relinquish their youth and freedom.

“I know education is what separates a girl who is trapped in a cycle of poverty, fear, and violence from one with a chance at a better future,” Malala said.

In recent weeks, Nigerian officials have hinted at progress in planning a rescue mission for the captured girls. But, according to a recent statement released by President Jonathan, the Nigerian government refuses to make any negotiations with Boko Haram.

Some feel this may be a dangerous tactic, since Shekau has openly taken credit for at least two recent bombings of Nigerian cities.

No matter what the Nigerian government plans to do, Malala has hope that everything will work out for the captive girls.

“We raise our voices so that those without a voice can be heard. We pledge not to forget the voiceless. Not to get tired of calling for the creation of a world that we want to live in,” Malala wrote. “Not to lose hope, and not to stop caring.”

Paige Fraizer

Sources: Biography.com, LA Times, Liberty Voice, The International News, Washington Post
Photo: CCTV

education
The Global Partnership on Education (GPE) held a “replenishment summit” on June 25, where it asked donor countries to provide funding for another four years. By disbursing billions of dollars in donations from 20 countries toward educational programs in 50 developing nations, GPE has become one of the most influential global education organizations.

As the chairwoman of GPE, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Guillard has been advancing the message that “it is enlightened self-interest to invest in education.” Her argument ahead of the summit has been that whoever is interested in promoting economic growth and reducing extremism should start by building classrooms and training teachers.

“Ms. Guillard says the abductions of schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram militants should act as an alarm bell for the threat of extremism and also a catalyst for protecting education.” It is “the subject of such dedicated assault by terrorists and extremists shows the potency and importance of education in such communities,” she says.

However, skepticism is still in the air as to how much impact educational programs are having on reducing extremism and terrorist threats. Moreover, the question remains as to why industrialized nations should dedicate part of their budgets toward educating children in developing nations.

Guillard argues that organizations like GPE can really make a long-term difference and that it cannot be expected that change will happen overnight. Additionally, she asserts that it cannot be expected that donor countries and organizations like GPE bear all the weight of educating children in developing countries. It is imperative for recipient nations to step up their game, she says. This is not only about just allocating funding for the public schooling system. Guilliard states that each country should be an active participant in the development and implementation of the various educational programs.

In this realm, it can be said that the summit was a success. The $22.85 billion raised from donor nations also comes with a commitment by recipient nations to increase their own investment in public education.

While there have been many missed promises when it comes to global public education, one of them being the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, the latest GPE summit promised and delivered a new round of funding for public educations. Now it is about the implementation of adequate measures and programs.

Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: BBC News 1, BBC News 2 Photo: VIP Properties

education
The recent kidnapping of 300 Nigerian girls by the extremist group Boko Haram has sparked a global dialogue around the issue of women’s rights. Everyone seems to be wondering: why would an extremist group of alpha males feel so threatened by young, educated girls that they would be inclined to abduct nearly an entire village? The answer lies in the facts.

Around the world a vast portion of women are denied basic rights — that is access to education, jobs and health care — and are victims of sexual and physical abuse. According to USAID, 62 million girls are not in school. UNESCO’s latest statistics show that there are an estimated 862 million illiterate adults in the world, about two-thirds of whom are women.

The residual effects of an uneducated female population are far-reaching. There are social, political and economic consequences, there are health corollaries, but the common motivator seems to be to keep men in power.

USAID studies show that a girl who completes basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV/AIDS. An educated women re-invests 90 percent of the income in her family. A child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5. Women with some formal education are more likely to seek medical care and ensure their children are immunized.

So, an educated female population would completely uproot a conservative, dictatorial society and act as a threat to terrorism. It is, therefore, entirely threatening to those men in positions of power. A literate woman does not simply read her children bedtime stories — she changes their conception of the world.

Various global efforts have been launched to ensure that women are granted access to education. Let Girls Learn is a new endeavor that provides the public with meaningful ways to help all girls receive a quality education. USAID has contributed $230 million in support of the cause and for new programs that promote universal education.

The United States government has intervened in the global arena as well. It has invested one billion per year through USAID in low-income countries to ensure equitable treatment of boys and girls, to establish safe school environments and to engage communities in support for girls’ education.

When delving into the facts, the answer seems clear. The prospect of an educated female population is extraordinarily threatening. Education is a fundamental tool and means for societal change. Thomas Staal, USAID’s deputy administrator, sees the issue plain and simple; education is essential in fighting poverty and its grim consequences — hunger, disease, resource degradation, exploitation and despair. And “women are the caretakers and economic catalysts in our communities. No country can afford to ignore their potential.”

– Samantha Scheetz

Sources: USAID 1, USAID 2, USAID 3, USAID 4, PBS
Photo: FT Magazine

somali food crisis
The United States government recently acknowledged the presence of over 100 military advisors who have been secretly operating in Somalia since 2007. While they are not engaged in combat missions, they have routinely assisted the Somali government by providing their tactical expertise in the Somali effort to combat Islamist militants. Those militants comprise al Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization which most notably claimed responsibility for the September 2013 attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya which resulted in 67 deaths.

The African Union Mission in Somalia currently has 22,000 troops stationed in Somalia from various African countries and the United States has stated its intent to aid soldiers of the Somali National Army. However, Somalia is far from a stable country. On July 8 al Shabaab militants attacked Somali’s presidential palace in Mogadishu. They used a car bomb to blast open the gates and then proceeded onto the grounds. Their attack was eventually thwarted by Somali and AMISOM troops but the threat of violence in the nation’s capital still looms.

Despite the various armed conflicts taking place throughout the country, Somalia is faced with another pressing issue: the Somali food crisis. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recently disclosed the possibility of a worsening food crisis in Somalia. This crisis would be the result of a predicted water shortage following a lackluster rain season earlier this year, rising food prices in urban areas and dwindling humanitarian assistance in the country.

The food agency also acknowledged the presence of acute malnutrition in Mogadishu which requires intensified humanitarian aid over the coming months. The displaced populace in areas like Mogadishu where armed violence has become regular has served to exacerbate the food crisis. While it is clear that the Somali government is finally receiving the military aid it needs, the food aid it also requires has not yet occurred.

— Taylor Dow

Sources: HORSEED Media, Daily Times, Fox news, CNN, Reuters
Photo: World Vision

Boko Haram thrives on poverty
While the terrorist group Boko Haram has numbers, weapons and a mission to fight for, their best advocate for success is the poverty in Nigeria.

In 2013, Boko Haram managed to kill 40 students in Yobe State, despite the fact that there was a federal government-imposed state of emergency in the area. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, a senator from Yobe state, said this on the issue:

“This is an insurgency that doesn’t know any limits or bounds. But I think while we are fighting insurgency in that part of the country, I believe that Yobe and Borno particularly need to have more resources from the federal government to also fight poverty. If we are targeting insurgency, we must also be battling the source of the insurgency, and it has been established by people across this country and even people from beyond that poverty is in the mix of this crisis. And there I believe that the federal needs to come up with a special financial package for Yobe State and Borno State too.”

The poverty throughout the country not only helps Boko Haram with going against security, but it also aids their recruitment process. J. Peter Pham, an expert on Boko Haram at the Atlantic Council, speaks about how the group takes advantage of the desperation some Nigerians are going through. Essentially, Boko Haram thrives on poverty.

“What Boko Haram does is goes around with pennies, and they’ll hire these young boys for a penny or two to watch Nigerian military movements or carry messages around for them, it’s an example of how poverty makes for an easy operational climate.”

When each region of Nigeria is mapped out showing the percentage of those who are poor and those who are in absolute poverty, there is a correlation between the poorest areas and the areas with the highest presence of Boko Haram. The North-East, North-West and North-Central regions of Nigeria have the highest percentage of those living on less than $1 a day, and are also the areas most strongly affected by Boko Haram.

The International Crisis Group wrote in a report on Boko Haram in April that many of the youth in Nigeria are lacking in education and employable skills, and are therefore easy to recruit by anti-state and militia groups.

Former assistant secretary of state for African affairs Johnnie Carson told a house subcommittee in July 2012 that “Boko Haram thrives because of social and economic problems in the North.”

One worry many people have is that the Nigerian government is concerning themselves too much with their public appearance after all of the violence rather than curbing the violence itself. The administration under President Goodluck Jonathan recently hired a lawyer to help improve their image abroad.

There are possible solutions to minimizing the violence throughout Nigeria. Creating a well-structured poverty alleviation program, outside of any political motives, would be a strong start.

This would require more effort focused on Universal Basic Education programs, which would include qualified teachers and mid-day lunch. The educational improvements should continue with more vocational schools where graduates can receive grants to practice their vocations.

Overall, the best way to curb the success of Boko Haram is to eliminate the source they thrive on: poverty. With some work put into the education of the youth, Nigeria will be able to thrive in a safer, more educated country.

Courtney Prentice

Sources: Voice of America, CNSNews.com, takepart, Iosrjournals
Photo: Front Page Mag

israeli_boys_found_dead
Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach, 16, and Gilad Shaar, 19, were three Israeli boys found dead more than two weeks after being abducted on their way home from school in the West Bank in Israel. Since their abduction, the boys’ mothers were incredibly vocal about the return of their boys; Mrs. Frankel even addressed the U.N. to bring international attention to the issue. Now upon news of their death, those from Israel — and around the world — are looking for answers.

According to the Israeli military, the boys’ bodies were found on Monday afternoon in a field a few miles south of where they were last seen. The three boys were buried together on Thursday, and candlelight vigils honoring the boys lit up the sky in areas of the country. The discovery, which brought a tragic end to the search for the three boys, has laid further questions regarding Israel’s response.

Israeli Prime Minister  Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly blamed the abductions and deaths on Hamas, the militant Islamist group. Upon hearing of the boys’ deaths, Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of summoned senior ministers to address further action. “They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood,” he said. “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.”

Yet fault may not be so clearly placed on Hamas. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an Egyptian group responsible for an alarmingly high number of bombings and attacks, came forward this week saying it killed the three boys. The claim, which was published on the Jihadist Media Platform, came the day after the group pledged allegiance to ISIS, the violent radical group which has conquered vast amounts of Syria and Iraq. Yet terrorist groups often make false claims, and many officials believe this could be a ploy to divert attention away from Hamas, with whom the Egyptian group has ties.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu ensures that the Israeli military will find those responsible for the boys’ deaths. “Whoever was involved in the kidnapping and the murder will bear the consequences,” he said. “We will neither rest nor slacken until we reach the last of them.” These actions are already well underway. More than hundreds of Hamas activists have been arrested; dozens of homes and institutions in Gaza have been destroyed, and the Israeli army has launched 34 strikes targeting terror infrastructure. While none of this can bring back the boys, many hope it will prevent future abductions. As Israel continues the investigation, many countries — including the United States — have voiced support against these horrific crimes.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: CNN, Vocativ, TIME, CNN
Photo: Time