According to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s most recent Global Terrorism Index, Boko Haram is the “world’s deadliest terror organization.” Their figures claim that Boko Haram was responsible the death of 6,665 people in 2014. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) was responsible for 6,073 during that same period.
The report was released at a time that the tragedy and high drama of ISIS attacks in Paris have dominated the political discourse and the media. Yet, Boko Haram attacks have not abated. As recently as November 18, Boko Haram killed at least thirty people in a suicide attack in a market in Yola, in Adamawa state. The attack adds to the over five thousand fatalities already attributed to the group in 2015. At least eighty more victims have been taken to hospitals for their injuries from that particular occurrence. Though there is a brief New York Times November 18, report on the incident, Boko Haram does not receive the same level of coverage or popular attention as ISIS.
The Global Terrorism Index shows that Boko Haram and ISIS were responsible for 51 percent of all terrorist fatalities world-wide in 2014: the world total was 32,658 compared to 18,111 in 2013. Seventy-seven percent of Boko Haram’s victims were private citizens. The Index notes that Boko Haram kills an average of fifteen people per attack.
Relative lack of international attention to Boko Haram in comparison with ISIS reflects the former’s area of operation in northeast Nigeria and adjacent parts of Niger, Chad, and Cameroon – far from media centers and more distant than the Middle East from the interests and concerns of Europe and the United States. Boko Haram represents something of a civil war in northern Nigeria, the issues of which are difficult for outsiders to understand. And Boko Haram, while hostile to the United States and Western civilization in its rhetoric, has yet to attack a single American facility or installation and, at present, does not appear to have the capability that ISIS has recently demonstrated. (It has, however, been involved with the kidnapping of Europeans.) Similarly, the huge numbers of internally displaced persons in northern Nigeria receive a fraction of the attention devoted to Middle Eastern and other migrants trying to reach Europe. Maggie Fick in the November 12, Financial Times has a poignant story about how Nigerians take in refugees and displaced persons at a high cost to themselves. She concludes: “We in the West should not forget that the vast majority of the worlds displaced are hosted in nations like Nigeria and Lebanon, whose citizens and governments have far fewer resources.”