A Nigerian fighter jet struck a refugee camp in the northeast part of the country, reportedly killing more than 100 people. It’s the latest tragedy in a religious insurrection beset by tragedies for the country.
Civilians have long claimed that innocent people have died from military mishaps, but this may be the first time Nigeria has admitted such a mistake. Parents of some of the 300 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014 and freed last year claim three of them have been killed in Air Force strikes, according to the Associated Press.
Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor told journalists that the jet’s intended targets were Boko Haram fighters in the Kala Balge area of Maiduguri. Several soldiers were also wounded in the attack. Relief organizations affected include workers with Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Since Boko Haram began military operations in 2009, the group has killed thousands of civilians. Some estimates have the civilian death toll at more than 6,000; upwards of 15,000 people are believed to have been killed by the group in other estimates.
Today’s failed military strike pours cold water over Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s December declaration that Boko Haram was defeated. But the group is still clearly a threat. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing attack at University of Maiduguri that killed four people Monday.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Muslim cleric Mohammed Yusuf, according to the BBC. The Brookings Institute cites arguments that it started in 1995 under Sahaba. The consensus is that the group more or less conducted its activities peacefully until the government crackdown in 2009 that left some 800 people killed. Yusuf was also killed after the attack while in police custody.
The group is based on the northern part of the country, where most of its Muslim population lives; Christians dominate the south. However, the group has not shown a preference for people it kills, based on religion. Thousands of innocent people, Muslim and Christian, have been killed by Boko Haram.
The group split in two last year, with one faction operating in the Sambisa forest and the other based in the Lake Chad region.
There are many explanations behind why the group was founded, but much of it has to do with many residents in the region believing that Western values on education, which Boko Haram views as sinful, is designed to suppress them. Furthermore, many residents in Boko Haram-controlled areas believe the extreme poverty they experience prove the government cares more about themselves than the people they govern.
In an op-ed published in the New York Times in April, Buhari outlined a very honest approach to defeating the group that includes economic reform and ridding the government of corruption as well as strengthening its military might.
Though it remains unclear if Buhari’s government will be able to follow up on its “measured approach” to defeating Boko Haram. What we do know is that it is far from defeated, as he declared less than a month ago.