Nigerian terrorist group, Boko Haram, launched their deadliest massacre to-date in Borno, Nigeria last week. The militants shot civilians indiscriminately and torched their homes putting the death toll at around 2000.
The new attacks came just one day after the group overran a multinational military base in the town, controlled at the time by a counter-terrorism force specifically tasked with combating the insurgents.
A local official told the BBC that Baga, a town of 10,000 “has been burnt down” and is now “virtually non-existent.”
“The towns are just gone,” said another Borno state official.
In the wake of its most recent successes, Boko Haram now controls 11 local governmental units, including some 20,000 square miles in the northern states of Yobe and Borno which are home to more than 1.5 million inhabitants, according to the British daily Telegraph.
The insurgency appears to have largely driven the Nigerian government out of Borno, rendering 20 out of 27 districts inaccessible to the governmental and international aid agencies, according to Borno State Emergency Management Agency chairman Grema Terab.
Perhaps 30,000 Nigerians have been displaced as a result of the recent fighting around Baga, adding to the some 1.7 million refugees produced by fighting between the government and Boko Haram insurgents since 2009. Thousands of refugees have flooded across border into Chad, with some 1,000 remaining stranded on an island in the center of Lake Chad, according to UN statements Friday.
While Boko Haram initially relied on sabotage and guerrilla tactics to expand its territory and weaken the influence of the official government and fought primarily using AK 47 rifles, the group is acquiring more advanced weaponry, including RPGs, armored combat vehicles, anti-tank rockets and surface-to-air missiles.
As this horrific tragedy occurred the worlds media focussed on the Paris terror attacks last week with little to no media coverage of Nigeria’s attacks. The question is why? What makes the Paris attacks more newsworthy than this one? One had a death count of 26, this one 10,000!
Are we ignoring Boko Harem? Why so little media coverage?
The Guardian reports:
Reporting in northern Nigeria is notoriously difficult; journalists have been targeted by Boko Haram, and, unlike in Paris, people on the ground are isolated and struggle with access to the internet and other communications. Attacks by Boko Haram have disrupted connections further, meaning that there is an absence of an online community able to share news, photos and video reports of news as it unfolds.
But reports of the massacre were coming through and as the world’s media focused its attention on Paris, some questioned why events in Nigeria were almost ignored.
On Twitter, Max Abrahms, a terrorism analyst, tweeted: “It’s shameful how the 2K people killed in Boko Haram’s biggest massacre gets almost no media coverage.”
Musician Nitin Sawhney said: “Very moving watching events in Paris – wish the world media felt equally outraged by this recent news too.”
“I am Charlie, but I am Baga too,” wrote Simon Allison for the Daily Maverick, a partner on the Guardian Africa network. “There are massacres and there are massacres” he said, arguing that “it may be the 21st century, but African lives are still deemed less newsworthy – and, by implication, less valuable – than western lives”.
Allison recognises the challenges in reporting – “the nearest journalists are hundreds of kilometres away” – but also points to the significance of the attack: taking control of Baga, “Boko Haram effectively controls Borno state in its entirety. These aren’t just terrorists: they are becoming a de facto state.” Even more reason for the world to take notice.