The man who claims to be spokesman of the militant Islamic sect Boko Haram, has issued a three-day ultimatum to Christians living in northern Nigeria to leave.
Qaqa in his statement which comes after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in four states of the northern Nigeria, said: "We find it pertinent to state that soldiers will only kill innocent Muslims in the local government areas where the state of emergency was declared. We would confront them squarely to protect our brothers. We also wish to call on our fellow Muslims to come back to the north because we have evidence that they would be attacked.We are also giving a three-day ultimatum to the southerners living in the northern part of Nigeria to move away."
The National reports that Boko Haram is believed to have split into factions with varying aims, but details of its organizational structure remain unclear. It is evident, however, from the tactics and pronouncements of the group that it is seeking to widen the conflict and transform it into a Muslim-Christian conflict. Many have, however, been pointing out that Muslims have also been victims of Boko Haram killings and bombings and that most Muslims in Nigeria do not support the group.
Local commentators say there is evidence that the group commands some grassroots support in northeast Nigeria. They point to the ability of the group to operate underground in Borno and Yobe states as evidence of some popular support, though the fact of alienation of ordinary Nigerians from the state is considered in the context.
In spite of President Jonathan's recent tough talk and promise to "crush" the insurgency, most Nigerians doubt the tactical and strategic competence of the Nigerian Armed Forces to contain the conflict. The Independent reports that many Nigerians are criticizing President Jonathan's handling of the crisis. The Independent quotes a political commentator Kennedy Emetulu, who accused President Jonathan of delaying a week before visiting the churches bombed on December 25, as saying: "His (President Jonathan's) latest gimmick of declaring a state of emergency in parts of some states in the North is another shambolic response to a situation demanding more robust, honest and well-considered action."
Brief History of Boko Haram
The group officially known as Jama'atu ahlis sunna lidda'awati wal-jihad ("People committed to the propagation of the Prophet's teachings and jihad") is best known by the nickname Boko Haram ("non-Islamic education is sin"). The group began as a Salafist movement but had adopted Salafist Jihadist ideology by 2009.
It was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, in Maiduguri, Borno State, and claimed that its major goal was strict implementation of Sharia in northern Nigeria. The group separated itself from the local Muslim community and was very critical of what it considered the religious laxity of the northern Muslim elite and apostasy of the people in general. The group maintains that the implementation of Sharia in the northern states of Nigeria does not meet the standards set in the Koran. The group established a settlement in Maiduguri which included a mosque and Koranic school and soon attracted a significant following of young people of poor background.
The group relocated in 2004 to a site in Yusuf's homestate Yobe, in the village of Kanam near the Niger border
The Nigerian state began investigating the group in 2004, after reports that the group was arming itself with political aims in a manner reminiscent of the Maitatsine uprisings of the 1980s. The investigations led to clashes with security forces in which 700 people were killed. Yusuf was arrested by the army and handed over to the police. It is alleged that he was summarily executed.
The group, claiming it was avenging the killing of its members in the 2009, began a series of assassinations and bombings which culminated in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja on August 26, 2011, and finally the December 25, 2011 Christmas bombings of churches.
While it is often claimed that the group is fighting for the implementation of Sharia law across the country, spokesmen of the group now only acknowledge the goal of full implementation of Sharia law in the northern states of Nigeria.