Three weeks after 276 girls were abducted from a school in Chiboki, northeast Nigeria, by the Islamist terrorist organization, Boko Haram, the world remains outraged and horrified as calls for the Nigerian government and ‘the West’ to act grow louder. Parents of the abducted girls have blamed authorities of callousness and inaction whereas the Nigerian government claims that the country’s military is in hot pursuit of the perpetrators. After the release of a video, in which Boko Haram leader Abubar Shekau claimed responsibility for the incident and threatened to sell girls as slaves in the “market”, the reaction from the international community has amplified and protesters and activists across the world are demanding concrete efforts to ensure safe release of the captives. The UN has warned Boko Haram; slavery and sexual slavery are considered “crimes against humanity”, and the group must not act on its ill intentions. That, coupled with Nigeria’s inability to deal with the challenge on its own, has raised the possibility of foreign intervention. The US has offered help, in terms of intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating, information sharing and victim assistance, which has finally been accepted by the Nigerian government. Many fear that it may already be too late.

This episode cannot be viewed in isolation. Instead, it should be studied in the context of rising Islamist terrorism in different parts of the world. One factor that is common other than the regressive and absolutist ideology at work is the poor state of governance in the concerned areas. Radicalism and militancy have thrived in regions home to largely uneducated and poor masses, owing to the negligence of the state in many cases. Disparity between rich and poor, manipulation at the hands of ‘enlightened’ capitalists and government corruption are recurring themes in conflict-ridden regions and cannot be ignored. Whereas it is pertinent to counter militancy and use force wherever necessary, an approach which takes into account different factors that come together and serve as a petri dish for terrorism is more likely to produce better results.