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Part and Parcel? Examining Al Shabaab and Boko Haram’s Violence Targeting Civilians and Violence Targeting Women

IdeologiesRegionsAfricaCase studies


In an effort to produce a more holistic and nuanced understanding of the violence women face in conflict, this article describes al Shabaab and Boko Haram’s respective patterns of political violence targeting women and compares them to one another. This article also describes and compares their respective political violence targeting civilians. This analysis, using data from the the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), provides three insights. Firstly, though al Shabaab and Boko Haram share a number of theoretically important characteristics, the nature of their violence targeting women differs considerably. Secondly, this comparison suggests that violence targeting women should be considered a distinct form of violence targeting civilians. Thirdly, this review sheds light on the degree to which different instrumentalist and ideological explanations, not theories of violence targeting civilians explain al Shabaab and Boko Haram’s patterns of violence. Ultimately, this article finds that a counter-insurgency plan, counter-terrorism strategy, or academic analysis that takes the same approach to al Shabaab and Boko Haram on the basis of their shared identities as Salafi-jihadist rebel groups will fail to capture important differences in their targeting patterns.

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