Boko Haram attacked the northeastern Nigerian village of Gumsuri this week, taking almost 200 women and children hostage. International outrage about the group faded somewhat after the brief “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign earlier this year, but it has only grown more brutal and more powerful since.Many Nigerians in the northern state of Borno have lost faith in the government’s ability to protect them from this threat. Towns have begun to raise militias, rough-and-tumble outfits that have better weaponry than the Nigerian armed forces.Meanwhile, the military’s campaign against Boko Haram has become an ordeal for even the bravest soldier. When 480 deserters fled en masse over the border to Cameroon this summer, the army’s public relations team claimed the exodus was actually a “tactical maneuver.” But this week the government was not so lenient, condemning 54 soldiers to death for attempted mutiny. It’s hard to blame the troops for being terrified; they are (often) unpaid, underfed, and facing a ruthless enemy. As Libération reports [translated from the French]:
“The soldiers placed in the front lines complained constantly that they lacked the weapons and matériel that they needed to fight Boko Haram in the insurgent’s territory. The Islamists possess tanks, rocket launchers, and other heavy armaments, while the Nigerian troops lack even ammunition for their AK-47s.
These formidably armed terrorists aren’t only a menace inside Nigeria’s borders; signs keep mounting that Boko Haram has serious international ambitions. The group has increased its number of cross-border attacks in recent months. One neighboring country, Cameroon, reported this week that it has killed 116 members of Boko Haram within its borders. Nigeria isn’t alone in facing this would-be Islamic State, but as we’ve said before, the whole region will be in worse shape if prosperous and often promising Nigeria drifts closer to failure than it already has.