May 5, 2014 | Boko Haram massacre in Nigeria

Boko Haram terrorists massacred upwards of 300 civilians in a Nigerian town near that country’s border with Cameroon which had been left unguarded.

Terrorism is a complicated phenomenon that arises from all kinds of causes: still, some attacks make no sense.

GAMBORU NGALA, NIGERIA — An honest analysis of terrorism and terrorist groups has to acknowledge that in some cases the grievances cited as justification for their violent actions do have merit, even if a little.

Al Qaeda (AQ), for instance, arose after the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. It would be unfair to say that the people of that country did not have the right to fight the aggressor and regain their independence. One could argue that AQ had no dog in that struggle, although they portrayed it as an Islamic duty to help their co-religionists – and we supported them at one point, seeing them as preferable to the evil Russkies.

Other terrorist groups will put forward other inequalities to explain why they have resorted to violence: land issues, ethnic discrimination, and others are frequently cited. A dispassionate analysis would indeed recognise these as ‘good causes’.

Then there are the groups that engage in acts of terrorism/violence that do not seem, or at least not always, as retribution for a current or historical wrong. Pretty much everything Islamic State (ISIS) did made no sense in this regard. That band of religiously-inspired thugs killed for the sake of killing.


Another terrorist organisation that has engaged in attacks against civilians with no clear link to grievance is Boko Haram in Nigeria. This group has been around since the late 2000s and is seeking to carve out what it calls an ‘Islamic state’ in the northeastern part of the country, although it has also struck in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.

Massacres perpetrated by these terrorists have zilch to do with their stated goals. One such heinous deed on this day in 2014 is a prime example. Boko Haram terrorists attacked the town of Gamboru Ngala, near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon: it was unguarded by the military since soldiers had been redeployed to the north to help find the girls the organisation kidnapped in Chibok.

The death toll was between 200-300, according to Cameroonian and Nigerian officials. Gunmen burned buildings and fired on civilians as they tried to flee. According to a Cameroonian doctor:

Some of the bodies were charred. It was horrific. People had their throats slit, others were shot.

How anyone can say that an act of this nature is ok is beyond me. Nigeria has been battling Boko Haram for more than a decade. I hope it eventually ‘neutralises’ these brutes.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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