NEW DELHI: Militant group Boko Haram has declared the establishment of an Islamic State in northeastern Nigeria. The announcement was made by Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader, in a video that was released to congratulate fights for capturing the town of Gwoza earlier this month.

It is not clear if the declaration is a pledge of allegiance to Islamic State militants who are capturing territory in Iraq and Syria, but the Nigerian military denounced Shekau’s claim as “empty.”

Boko Haram has been leading an insurgency in Nigeria’s north since 2009, and Gwoza is the biggest town -- with 265,000 residents -- under the militant group’s control.

The militants received international attention for the kidnapping of 276 school girls. Most of those 200 plus school girls are still being held captive by the militants, with the group releasing a video saying that the girls will only be released if all the group’s prisoners being held by Nigerian authorities are freed in return. The military issued a statement a few weeks later saying that it knew where the girls were being held captive, but ruled out the use of force in rescue operations.

The militants followed the kidnapping with an attack on the town of Gamboru Ngala on the border with Cameroon, as Senator Ahmed Zanna estimated that the death toll was close to 300. The town being unguarded with troops that used to be present there having been redeployed was highlighted as a reason facilitating the attack, much like the attacks on villages in the days that followed.

The group kidnapped another 60 Nigerian girls and women in the restive Borno state, who escaped but attacks continued with thousands of people being killed.

These incidents were projected in western Media as examples of Islamic terror, with little context specific to Boko Haram being mentioned. As most conflicts that are seemingly religious in nature, the agenda of Boko Haram is outrightly political. The group’s aim is to overthrow the country’s government and seize power. As part of this agenda, the group has adopted a specific variant of Islam - one that is opposed to any political or social activity associated with western society. This includes voting in elections, wearing western clothes and receiving what is considered a western (non religious) education.

The origins of Boko Haram, the official name of which is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad", sheds light on the specific social-economic context that has determined developments. As parts of Nigeria fell under British control in 1903, locals came to view western education with suspicion, and this resistance continued as Nigeria gained independence, with many muslim families refusing to send their children to government run “western schools.” The problem was compounded by the lack of priority given to education by the state government.

Located in this context, in 2002, Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, formed Boko Haram in Maiduguri with the intention of setting up a religious complex, which included a mosque and an Islamic school. Many families across Nigeria and the region enrolled their children in Yusuf’s school. The movement did not remain restricted to education, with the eventual aim of an Islamic state being conceived within the struggle for power that was rooted in an anti-western discourse. In 2009, the group carried out a series of attacks on official buildings in Maiduguri. The group was defeated and Yusuf was killed, but fighters regrouped and in 2010, attacked a prison in Bauchi state, setting free hundreds of the groups’ supporters.

Since then, the group’s attacks have increased in severity, with some of the worst attacks being the 2011 Christmas day bombings on the outskirts of Abuja and in Damaturu; bombing the police headquarters and the UN headquarters in Abuja in 2011; and an attack on a military barracks in Abuja in 2010.

The context is far more complicated than a mere religious rendering can do justice to. Nigerian American author and columnist offered a voice of reason when he tweeted: “I understand the impulse to "do something." But Boko Haram is irreducibly complex. Makes Kony look like child's play” and “The history of the Nigerian military "doing something" about Boko Haram has been one of mass murder of civilians.”

The threat posed by Boko Haram is not going to disappear by launching an offensive attack, which, at best will cause a temporary lull of activity till the fighters regroup and hit back even more violently. The solution to the threat is in reducing the region’s chronic poverty and building an education system which gains the support of local muslims - measures which are not being given priority to by the establishment and figure no where in the “do something” position adopted by the west.