Boko Haram Becoming the 'Islamic State' of Africa?
NIGER, West Africa -- As the Islamic State continues to dominate headlines in America and in the Middle East, another radical Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, is also waging a holy war in Africa.
Like ISIS, they're trying to establish their own caliphate, a modern Islamic state.
In the dusty cities of countries in West Africa, there's growing anxiety over the spiritual and territorial ambitions of the radical Islamic group.
"For years Boko Haram focused on Nigeria, but now they are creating chaos across the region," one West African resident said. "We need to find a way to get rid of them before it gets worse."
Boko Haram is trying to create what's called a caliphate across western Africa, similar to what the Islamic State in Syria is trying to do. Today, the violence in Nigeria is spilling across its borders into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.
Those four countries, plus Benin, have formed a regional military force. In recent days they've killed hundreds of Islamic fighters and recaptured several towns.
Still, in places like southeast Niger where Americans Neal and Dannette Childs have planted several churches, thousands of people, including Christians, are fleeing the jihadists' reign of terror.
"The Christians are having to leave," Danette Childs said. "This is a serious situation and right now as we speak there are people on the road heading west, trying to get away from Boko Haram."
Boko Haram started in 2002. Their goal: turn Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer and biggest economy, into an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law.
"Boko Haram is a jihadist movement that has the same ideology as all other Salafist jihadist movements as al Qaeda, the Taliban, as al-Shabaab," terrorism expert Walid Phares told CBN News.
"What they want to do is to establish an emirate, an Islamist radical state first in the northern part of Nigeria, implement a very narrow Sharia law in northern Nigeria, and then push to the south and declare an emirate across Nigeria," he explained.
Their fighters have killed thousands of people. In 2014 alone, Boko Haram reportedly murdered more than 2,400 Christians.
"These are ruthless people who don't have any respect for religion, Christian or Muslim. They kill indiscriminately. They are evil," one woman said.
Now some intelligence officials worry the group could not only expand their attacks beyond this region, they could become the ISIS of Africa.
Boko Haram has repeatedly praised ISIS's apocalyptic Islamic ideology, but increasingly U.S. counterterrorism officials fear a possible tactical and operational alliance between the two groups as well.
If that happens, it would give radical Islam an even bigger--and growing--foothold in both the Middle East and Africa.