U.S. aid in Nigeria’s kidnapping crisis should spark caution

05/06/2014 5:05 PM

05/06/2014 6:52 PM

The plight of 276 teenaged girls, kidnapped April 14 from their school in northern Nigeria, has rightly captured the world’s attention.

Also being noticed is the failure of Nigeria’s government to locate the girls — eight more were reported kidnapped late Monday — or deal effectively with the perpetrators, a band of extreme Islamists who rage against the influence of nonbelievers and the West.

Now the United States is sending in a team of advisers to help with the effort. We hope that it goes well, but a rising tide of terror in oil-rich, highly divided and notoriously corrupt Nigeria bodes poorly for stability in the region.

Known as Boko Haram — its name is loosely translated as “Western education is forbidden” — the kidnappers have been on a tear since early last year, avenging the government’s detention of about 100 of their wives and daughters. In a disturbing, attention-getting video, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau vows to sell the girls and kill nonbelievers.

It’s unclear how influential Boko Haram can be, but many Nigerians have little confidence in a government that doesn’t serve or protect them very well.

In a cogent article in Foreign Policy, Lauren Wolfe reminds us of a long and dreadful history:

“Understanding what has happened to the Nigerian girls and how to rescue them means beginning to face what has happened to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of girls over years in global armed conflict.”

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