EDITORIAL: U.S. must lead efforts to save girls from Islamist terrorists

May 8, 2014 

The world has woken slowly to the horror unfolding in Nigeria at the hand of another militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, and its particularly terrible brand of terrorism.

It took the United States three weeks after more than 200 school girls were abducted by armed men to react with aid. American news outlets, until this week, were spending exponentially more time on the much-older news of the missing Malaysian airplane.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan must shoulder some of the blame for failing to publicly address this tragedy until just a few days ago, perhaps concerned that Wednesday's meeting of the World Economic Forum in Nigeria might be compromised. An aggressive social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls did what Nigeria's president should have done to spark international interest and fan the growing flame of outrage.

Boko Haram is not new, having operated in Nigeria for about a decade. But its power has grown and it is fast becoming a terrorist organization with global implications.

The group's name, as translated from Hausa, means ""Western education is a sin" and Boko Haram's leader in a 2012 video bragged about how much he enjoyed killing.

Amnesty International estimates the group killed at least 1,500 people in the first three months of 2014. That does not include the estimated 300 people killed by armed men suspected to be Boko Haram in a brutal 12-hour attack on a village Tuesday.

"Terrorist groups like Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb have been gaining strength, and we must not allow a safe haven to develop from which these groups can grow, plan and launch attacks," Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Wednesday.

Good sentiment, but it seems that has already happened. Boko Haram "has grown more ruthless, violent and destructive" since 2009, according to the International Crisis Group.

President Barack Obama has promised to send a team of advisers and experts to help with the search.

Help from the U.S. and other countries will probably be too late to save many, if not all, of those girls taken in that initial abduction.

But it may not be too late for the handful snatched from another village Sunday-- or for those who might be taken or slaughtered in the next example of this new twist on terrorism.

Now that global attention has focused on Nigeria, it should stay to shine the light on Boko Haram and its many atrocities.

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