Iconic for its barbaric and high-profile acts, Boko Haram, has returned to the limelight with the capture of the town and military base in Braga, in northeast Nigeria, proceeding to raze it and killing over 2000 people in the process. Eyewitnesses report a brazen, daylight attack in which villagers were shot at indiscriminately. Previously shot into infamy for abducting 200 schoolgirls, Boko Haram is distinguishing itself as one of the most dangerous radical Islamist groups in the African continent.

The group, whose main objective is the rejection of Western education, has grown much more violent over the years and now counts the establishment of Sharia in Nigeria amongst its objective. The attack coincides with the start of the election campaign of the incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, and serves to remind Nigeria of the abject failure of the government to combat Boko Haram. The Nigerian military remains severely unequipped and untrained, despite the fact that Nigeria is not short of cash; political indifference in the peaceful, oil-rich south has led to little headway. Foreign forces are reluctant to arm the Nigerian military because of its abysmal human rights track record, leading to an impasse, which Boko Haram can exploit. A deadly attack such as this might me a catalyst in sharpening consensus, yet the same was hoped after the abduction of the schoolgirls and the massive global outcry it generated.

Much more than a lack of political will, Boko Haram’s case is a textbook illustration of only dealing with the symptoms of extremist insurgency. In 2009, after a spate of killings, the state counter-offensive stormed the group’s headquarters and killed its founder, later declaring the group “finished”. Yet it did nothing to address the north’s apprehensions about ‘colonial’ western education, did nothing to bring economic activity to the north or rehabilitate the remaining fighters – who eventually re-united under a much more violent leader, forged links with Al Qaeda, and sought vengeance. There are clear parallels to be drawn between Pakistan and Nigeria here; both countries need to think beyond the barrels of their guns.