The atrocities committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria are yet another example of the increasing global influence of ISIS and its capability to export terrorism. This should be a major concern for Russia and the West.


Nigerian soldiers man a checkpoint in Gwoza, Nigeria, a town newly liberated from Boko Haram. Photo: AP

The Jan. 31 atrocities committed by Boko Haram in a village in Nigeria that resulted in 86 people burnt alive, including a great number of children, indicate that the unique brand of terrorism led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS) is spreading throughout the world. As a result, Russia and the West should reinvigorate and coordinate their counter-terrorism endeavors.

The Syrian conundrum

In many ways, the problem of ISIS goes back to the problem of the Syrian crisis. Negotiations led by the United Nations to try to resolve the crisis in Syria broke down this week.

A key issue was a dispute over who are the real terrorist groups, and whether Russia would cease attacking any of these terrorists to promote the negotiations. 

Unfortunately, some of the groups that Russia considers mere terrorists are the same groups that the U.S. and other participants consider to be important opposition groups who should be party to the negotiations.

While these arguments are important, they matter far less than acting against the world’s single largest and most threatening terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria. 

It has now spread its operations, including those by followers and affiliates, to include attacks against more than a dozen states, including France, Britain, Russia, the U.S., Nigeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, Canada, Yemen, Australia and Nigeria, as well as its base of operations in Syria and Iraq.

While Russia, Europe, and America debate who is responsible for the breakdowns in state power in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and other countries, and treats each as a separate problem, ISIS flourishes in the cracks opened in these countries, now proclaiming new “provinces” of its Caliphate in countries from Nigeria and Libya to Yemen.

In short, ISIS is no longer just another terrorist group. It has become a revolutionary movement, aimed at creating an international network of liberated regions devoted to spreading its message and conduct of brutal terrorism. 

And it is backing that effort with all the resources in money and manpower of a medium-sized international state with a population of several millions (in Syria and Iraq) and a global network of supporters, adherents, and overseas agents.

ISIS’s continued efforts to spur violence and expand its reach are producing untold suffering, from the millions of refugees driven from Iraq and Syria to the thousands killed and driven from their homes in Nigeria (including dozens of children burned alive by ISIS ally Boko Haram just this week).

A man walks past burnt out houses following an attack by Boko Haram in Dalori village near Maiduguri, Nigeria, January 31, 2016. A survivor hidden in a tree says he watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and listened to the screams of children among people burned to death in the latest attack by Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremists. Photo: AP

Russia and the West need to put aside their differences

The global response necessary to halt this horror requires Russia, America, Europe, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and all other states engaged in the Middle East to put aside their differences and focus on the one major threat they all face – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria. 

They could begin with an effort to destroy the ISIS outpost in Libya, and continue with an effort to drive it back from its territories in Syria and Iraq.  If all of these countries will join forces against it, ISIS will not long stand. 

However, as long as these countries focus on their differences over who should govern Syria, whether or not to support Kurdish forces fighting against ISIS, and who bears the blame for the civil war in Libya, ISIS will only grow, slaughter and burn.

Now is a time for a grander vision and a sensible, focused strategy against the global network of ISIS as a whole.  Without it, Russia and the world will be fighting ISIS in ever more regions, facing ever more terrorism and brutality, and bracing for hundreds of thousands more refugees.

The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.