You think ISIS is the deadliest terrorist organisation in the world? Well, it’s not.

Published: November 25, 2015

Soldiers from Niger hold up a Boko Haram flag that they seized in the town of Damasak, Nigeria. PHOTO: REUTERS

So you thought ISIS was the deadliest terrorist organisation in the world? Well, it’s not. The deadliest is Boko Haram.

The outfit overtook ISIS in 2014 in terms of the number of innocent people killed. To make matters worse, the group has already pledged allegiance to ISIS making it a deadly and potent outsourced partner in Africa. While global media is abuzz with the ISIS catastrophe, Boko Haram – a Nigerian terrorist organisation – is laying strong foundations in North and West Africa. The outfit, based in Nigeria, is also active in Cameroon, Niger and Chad. It also carries attacks in other African countries.

In January this year, the group destroyed an entire village, killing, burning and slaughtering people without remorse. The death toll had risen to about 2,000 people, yet if you ask anyone around you they will not even have heard about the incident.

The group – whose name literally means “western education is a sin” – is against anything related to western society. Since its establishment in 2002 and rise in 2009, Boko Haram has claimed more than 20,000 lives and forced close to two million people to flee their homes.

The numbers are staggering, and yet it has merited no international scale media uproar.

Children fleeing from Boko Haram gather at Gudumariya Refugees Camp in Niger.
Photo: Reuters

Boko Haram’s recruitment pattern somewhat resembles Pakistan’s militant recruitment model. Muhammad Yusuf, the group’s founder, set up an Islamic centre and religious seminary back in 2002, attracting children from poor families in Nigeria based on the promise of free religious education. With a plan in sight, the same complex later became an active recruitment ground for jihadists in the country.

Already well-known in the African continent, the group gained global recognition after its mass abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria. The abduction gained attention from all corners of the world, including the US president, the first lady and Malala Yousafzai.

The entire world called for the immediate release of the girls, leading to the famous hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

Just like ISIS, the group seeks to overthrow the Nigerian government and establish an Islamic state in the country. Yet, the media and the west have conveniently turned a blind eye towards all of it.


Because it’s geographic positioning in the world does not have the required level of ‘strategic’ importance to cause furore.

The fact is, Africa as a whole has been largely ignored in the global narrative.

In fact, when Americans were asked to label Africa on a map, this was the result:




The US state department, after a recent suicide bombing, issued a nominal statement vowing to “work with” Nigeria to help defeat Boko Haram. But no real efforts have been made.

The world leaders are more concerned with terrorism in areas that are in line with their personal strategic interests.

Consequently, nobody really cares about Africa.

As long as Boko Haram operates in countries having little geostrategic importance, the group will get limited attention from the western corridors of policy making. Heads of state of both Nigeria and Cameroon have asked for international assistance in fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, yet there seems to be no interest in the pleas coming from Africa.

When it comes to the media, the situation is just as bad if not worse. Incidents involving dozens of victims in the West result in a global outcry and exclusive social media trends. On the other hand, when it comes to incidents involving hundreds, or even thousands, suffering in Africa, a nominal one-day-one-page story is all this news is worth.

BBC and CNN ran front page covers for at least 10 days post the Paris attacks. As I write this, the CNN’s front page still features a Paris bombing story. The bombing in Nigeria that killed dozens and injured nearly 120 people doesn’t even merit a story – let alone a front page story.

The harsh truth is that for African lives lost, there will be no vigils, no protests, and no marches.

The truth is that Black lives only matter if they are American Black lives.

There will also be no hashtags or Facebook filters to mark solidarity with the African victims, because the lives of Americans and Europeans are far more valuable than the lives of mere Africans.

A pre-requisite for Western attention is relevance. As long as Boko Haram doesn’t knock on their doors, nobody is going to answer. What is terrifying, however, is the prospect of them knocking on the doors of the West when they are too large to defeat. But I suppose that is the only time it will get the ‘strategic importance’ it is cunningly avoiding right now. Perhaps then, the world will #PrayForAfrica and #PrayForNigeria?

Farooq Yousaf

Farooq Yousaf

The author is a PhD (Politics) Candidate currently pursuing his studies in Australia. He has previously completed his Masters in Public Policy and Conflict Studies from Germany. He also consults Islamabad-based Security think tank, Centre for Research and Security Studies, and occasionally writes for various news and media sources. He is specialising in Indigenous conflict resolution and counter insurgency. He tweets at @faruqyusaf (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • kartikey

    IS has killed More than 3 lakes Muslims in Syria-Iraq so that is most deadliest terrorist organization in the worldRecommend

  • Alam cheema

    ISIS or BOKO HARAM… risk factor is common to both of them…many pakistanis atleast 99% also carry that same risk factor…Recommend

  • Noor Shah

    U really know that ? As i doubt your research..Recommend

  • JohnLocke

    Why don’t Muslims show the bad Westerners the good example and hold protests of their own on behalf of the African victims? This whataboutery is annoying and exposes the insincerity of the critics – the people they represent – who claim to show Western hypocrisy.

    Any sensible or remotely intelligent Arab or Muslim can understand why the Paris attacks gets more attention in the Western media. It has little do with geopolitical interests, but with news ‘laws’.
    A Nigerian bombing is less newsworthy, as bombings are a DAILY occurrence in the country. An attack in France is rare, especially with so many victims.
    Above that, most people can relate better with the people they identify with.
    A Westerner has more in common with a French man than an Arab, and vice versa. That’s why the Beirut bombing was frontage news for days in Lebanon and the wider Arab world than in the West. Similarly, the attacks in Paris featured more prominently in the Western media than they did in the African or Arab media.

    The alleged double standard is really easy to understand, but it seems any Third World-er (or Western leftist extreme) with an axe to grind will use the Paris attacks and the fallacy of relative privation to bash the West.Recommend

  • Vinod

    No one takes black Muslims seriously. They are viewed as brain washed Christan people such as Lee Rigby killers. Black Muslims are quickly forgiven. Why is the west and USA not bombing Boko Haram?Recommend

  • cautious

    “The US state department, after a recent suicide bombing, issued a nominal statement vowing to “work with” Nigeria to help defeat Boko Haram. But no real efforts have been made.”

    Rubbish – USA has sent money, weapons, drones, and adviser’s … were the first to recognize the issue and first to pressure the old govt to get off it’s arse to do something about it. The USA doesn’t have the resources to fight every injustice in the World – time for the rest of the World to step up to the plate … that includes Pakistan.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Good point.
    In most blogs like this the connection of terror to religious ideology, to meeting political ends, to sheer lust for power etc are made but few touch on the connection of terror that stems from poverty, bad governance, corrupt governments, greed of the arms industry ( mostly in the west ) and such factors.Recommend

  • anil

    If not ISIS, then boko-haram. Feathers of same bird Recommend

  • Faizan Ali

    Very well written. I completely agree with you on that and I only wish more and more people share your views and spread the message to create maximum awareness.Recommend

  • Bibloo

    By the same token, Modi during his tenure as Chief Minister
    of Gujrat beats them all. Thousands were killed during the Gujrat
    Riots. All his BJP party leaders, such as Amit Shah et al were indicted
    on murder charges. And were out on bail. Some still are.
    Up until he became PM of Bharat, Modi was a persona non grata in EU,
    USA, Singapore, Aus. and Japan. Was absolutely not allowed to enter
    these countries. His visas were rescinded. And he was held accountable
    for more than 6000 deaths. Nearly all of them Muslims.
    That’s why he is called the Butcher of Gujrat. by the World Media.Recommend

  • Sajja Shah

    Such an irony that a country that has huge diamond mines (and could do super well, economically) is poverty stricken and far behind when it comes to literacy.
    Talk about the West African country Niger. The literacy rate is lowest. The
    world supreme powers have a deliberate plan to keep the African population so
    busy with basic issues like health and hunger that their minds hardly go
    towards magnificent things like education or literature or art. The land does
    hold a geostrategic importance but the vested interests of the ‘certain’ super
    powers would not let it flourish.

    As to why BBC and CNN won’t run front page stories on Boko Haram and terrorism in Nigeria. Well, we don’t want to draw attention there. Right? Or someone might want to go into the details about Boko Haram alliances and internal structure and that would open some really thought provoking questions that might make certain powers very very uncomfortable. Questions like the aid and weapons sent to the Syrian rebels by the US being routed to the Nigerian terrorist group? Or is Boko Haram sharing funding of the al Qaeda ffiliate Al Shabaab active in Somalia (Africa), and then we have a circular debate going on about where did al Qaeda come from? Draw parallels? Long long debate!

    Moving on to the selective sympathy, I feel the the deadliest force in the world are not really ISIS or Bolo Haram or any other terrorist organization for that matter, the deadliest force comprise of the people who give importance to human life based on race and religion and geography!

    P.S- Boko Haram’s recruitment pattern somewhat resembles Pakistan’s militant recruitment model. Is that a hint, author?Recommend

  • Oxy Moron

    Very well said.

    Third World-ers don’t know any better so you can perhaps dismiss them as ignorant but ultimately ineffectual, but its the First World Leftists that amaze me. They would come across as very likable and sensitive people individually but put them in a bunch and some collective chemistry almost compulsively propels them to competitive rabidity and irrationality.

    Kind of reminds you of some rightists, doesn’t it.Recommend

  • Jude Allen

    Totally agreed that Boko Haram is a bigger terrorist organization. But why are we blaming Western Media for not covering it? Does media only exist in the West and not in our part of the world? Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, UAE, Malaysia.. where are these atrocities being reported? They are not.. because they too have joined the western bandwagon. That’s not a “western” fault, its OUR fault mate :)Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    As always half baked argument by fellow Pakistani. Thanks for bringing in India here. Keep on whining about being “victims”. You forget to mention how it started and how many Gujarati Muslims have left India due to that. In current article’s context you also forget to mention, in 1947 we had a grand-butcher who died with a year after he got his nation. Every secular nation right now is fed up with radical Muslims and the apologist like you. Muslims are at war with everyone else since the death of Mohamed, let us not blame the west, Jews, Hindus etc. Recommend

  • Parvez

    I respect your point of view…… but I feel that the subject is global in scope and deserves to be addressed accordingly.Recommend

  • DudeFromDC

    So what exactly is your point? Gujarat riots happened because Muslims burned a train (from Ahmedabad, Gujarat)load of Hindu pilgrims in Godhra, something everyone who laments on Gujarat riots conveniently forgets. Modi or no Modi, Gujarat riots would have happened. Like you mentioned “butcher of Gujarat” is 9th powerful man on the globe. What you need to do is to figure out ASAP whether polio vaccine is halal or not. Recommend

  • Gratgy

    You mean you respect his point of lies?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Everyone is entitled to their point of view. If you read my reply to him carefully you will note that I have politely ignored him.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    No worries, my jab was at him not at you, cheers!!Recommend

  • LS

    6000 deaths? Total count was less than 2000, remind me how it started? Also by your logic we also know a person who called for “Direct Action (Read Violence)” and more than 10,000 people died in 48 hours and he went on to ask for 50% of seats in Indian Parliament reserved for Muslims who formed around 10% of the population at that time and when it was rejected went on to divide the nation killing millions more, yet he is called father of that nation.Recommend

  • LS

    @Farooq Yousaf

    Samoa is also feeling neglected since no one in Pakistan or the world covered the news of the terrible storm that hit Samoa a few days ago… Oh boy… the whole Samoa is so angry at the world media….

    Hope you get the point… American Black lives matter not because they are Americans but most of the large Media houses are there and to them this news is important. They know it will sell. A life lost in Africa does not sell in US unless it has a shock value and even if it had when Boko Haram killed thousands in the village it will be in news only for 1 or 2 days. It is human nature and news cycle logic. As long these items do not directly relate to them it won’t get much air time.

    Deal with it. If tomorrow Nigeria becomes a prosperous nation or gains importance like US or China the news cycle will cover lots of Nigerian news.

    In fact when Brits were asked about US.. this is what they had to say

    so chill… Recommend

  • Farooq

    Yes, it sure is a hint, a fact, a reality, or a coincidence, how ever you may like to take it!Recommend

  • Farooq


  • Farooq

    Thats a bit harsh broRecommend

  • siesmann

    Something must be wrong with Muslims that they will become mercenaries ,everywhere,for other people to kill their own.Recommend