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Terrorism challenge in 2015

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 1:00 AM

Even as the world is still digesting details of the deadly assault by Islamic extremists in France, there are chilling reports from Nigeria that the terror group Boko Haram has slaughtered 2,000 people, mainly elderly women and children.

The grisly attack on Baja, described by various news sources, is that of marauding thugs storming a town, firing rocket-propelled grenades and spraying unarmed civilians with bullets before razing all the buildings. The victims are said to be children and the elderly, who could not run fast enough when the insurgents descended on their town.

Boko Haram, which is roughly translated as 'Western education is forbidden', entered the world's consciousness in April 2014, after thugs abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls aged 16-18 at gunpoint as they slept at a government-run boarding school. They threatened to sell the girls into sexual slavery or marriage. The international community condemned the incident and demanded that the girls be returned. Many of the girls have not been seen since and the Nigerian government has taken some heat for not acting decisively to recover the girls and for its initial refusal of international assistance in the search for them.

Described as the second deadliest terror group after the Taliban, Boko Haram is opposed to Western civilisation and values. It has been waging war on Nigeria since 2009 to further its radical agenda of creating an Islamic state in the country's north. Baga was reported to be the last hold-out with the assistance of a multi-national joint task force, thus, the reason for the bloody violence unleashed on the citizens. Last year alone, the extremists are believed to have killed as many as 10,000 persons.

WORLDWIDE CAUTION

In the aftermath of the French massacre, along with incidents in Canada and Australia, the United States has issued a worldwide caution alert to its citizens urging vigilance and advising them to take steps to increase security awareness.

Indeed, the impunity with which terrorists such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have vowed to attack foreigners, wherever they are, suggests their reign of terror will intensify and with no respect for borders, terrorism now poses danger to the entire world.

After a threatening video message from Boko Haram, President Paul Biya of Cameroon met with the diplomats serving in his country last week and appealed for help. Border countries like Chad and Cameroon are nervous about the likely response from Boko Haram, which has consistently sought revenge on anyone who provides aid and support to the Nigerian government.

To show the mindset of the leadership of the group, its leader, Abubakar Shekau, is reported to have scoffed at peace overtures with the declaration: "We will kill until we are tired or killed."

President Biya lamented that a key agreement for Nigeria's neighbours to set up a regional force to coordinate the fight against Boko Haram has not been implemented. He called for the mobilisation of the international community to fight terrorism, saying it is a threat to peace and stability in all countries.

The cost in human life is mounting and the threat to overall development of Nigeria and the entire African continent is being undermined each day, so what can be done to end Boko Haram's reign of terror? How should the international community respond to this enormous security challenge? Of course, these initiatives have to begin within Nigeria itself because every country is ultimately responsible for protecting its citizens.

The government of President Johnathan Goodluck may be reluctant to admit that the scale of the insurgency is overwhelming. There appears to be no quick fixes to the threat to peace, and tackling this terrorism threat is emerging as one of the main challenges of the 21st century.