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Boko Haram Attacks Spread Beyond Nigeria's Borders


For a long time, the Islamist extremists known as Boko Haram mostly struck in Nigeria, but now the group is launching attacks in neighboring countries, too. The violence has intensified ahead of national elections in Nigeria. They were scheduled for last Saturday, but have been postponed. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joins us now to talk about this. Hi, Ofeibea.


MCEVERS: So Boko Haram militants are now attacking places in Chad, in Cameroon and Niger. I mean, what does it mean that Boko Haram is expanding beyond Nigeria?

QUIST-ARCTON: It means that the same thing that the insurgents have done in Nigeria they will do there, but they have already started bombing places across the border and saying that Boko Haram is going to expand its territory way beyond Nigeria.

MCEVERS: The Nigerian military clearly has failed to contain Boko Haram and now I understand there's some kind of multinational force in the works. How will that work?

QUIST-ARCTON: It has already started work. Chad in particular has moved troops into Nigeria to try to literally stop Boko Haram in its tracks. And they're wishing their troops all the best as they join forces in this multinational offensive. Today, for example, in Niger where there have been border attacks in Diffa and in other parts, civilians in the region are very much backing their forces.

MCEVERS: It sounds like there's a lot of sentiment behind this new multinational force, but is there a sense that it will be effective?

QUIST-ARCTON: Oh, the region is determined. They are frustrated, you can see, with Nigeria not doing enough - A, to stop Boko Haram within its borders and from the violence spilling over into neighboring countries. Today there has been a protest march in Niger with Nigeriens saying Boko Haram is haram. Boko Haram is sinful. We are not the ones. That this is a group that says it is fighting in the name of Allah. This is not true. It's giving a bad name to Islam. It's giving a bad name to Muslims.

MCEVERS: Boko Haram became infamous, of course, after hundreds of school girls were abducted last year. You know, we know that most of those girls are still missing and that the insurgents have seized and killed many more people since. I mean, what are Nigerians saying about Boko Haram?

QUIST-ARCTON: They're saying how come that these insurgents have been allowed to run riot, especially in Northeastern Nigeria. Now, Nigeria's opposition says it's because the Northeast is an opposition stronghold that if this had been happening in the main city Lagos or nearer where the elites live, these insurgents would not have been able to strike at will. Elections that were scheduled for last Saturday have been postponed for six weeks. Many people are asking the question how can we be sure that the authorities and President Goodluck Jonathan - who's seeking reelection - that he is genuinely committed to Boko Haram being silenced once and for all? Those are the questions that Nigerians are asking.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joining us from her base in Dakar, Senegal. Ofeibea, we appreciate you doing this even though you have a bad case of bronchitis.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.

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