In spite of committing unspeakable mass atrocities, ISIS is not the deadliest armed group in the world.
Although the Nigeria-based terrorist organization has been active since 2002, it gained worldwide notoriety in 2014 after kidnapping 276 girls from a school in the northern town of Chibok, prompting international outrage and the viral hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
Since then, the majority of mainstream media coverage in West Africa has been about the mass abduction of those schoolgirls. Just this week, the terrorists released a video showing around 50 schoolgirls and demanded the release of fighters in return for the girls, some of whom Boko Haram claims have died in airstrikes carried out by Nigerian forces.
While much of the world remained transfixed by #BringBackOurGirls and subsequent events, Boko Haram continued to kidnap children — boys specifically, in numbers far greater than the Chibok girls.
Boko Haram has captured more than 10,000 boys over the past three years and trained them to be jihadists in secret boot camps, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Human Rights Watch sources.
Recruitment of minors by African militant groups in conflict zones is, sadly, not a new phenomenon. But terror groups in the embattled region are now increasingly brainwashing and using children to further religious terrorism as well.
“They told us, ‘It’s all right for you to kill and slaughter even your parents,’” said Samiyu, a former captive interviewed by WSJ. He witnessed a beheading on the first day of his 11 months with Boko Haram. The victim was held down by a couple of other boys. “They said, ‘This is what you have to do to get to heaven.’”
The Nigerian government, The Wall Street Journal added, has announced programs for Boko Haram defectors, especially the ones who were taken in without their consent. But not many people are coming forward to ask for help.
“There’s almost an entire generation of boys missing,” said Mausi Segun, a Nigerian researcher for the advocacy group Human Rights Watch. “My guess is that a large majority of them will die in the conflict.”
Also, just like some of the Chibok girls who managed to escape the clutches of the radical mass murderers, the boys who flee Boko Haram face difficulty reintegrating into society. More often than not, these children are ostracized by their communities, making them even more vulnerable and pushing many back to their captors.