Nigeria captures top Boko Haram figure

Story highlights

  • Nigeria says Mohammed Zangina helped coordinate Boko Haram attacks
  • The group has been fighting to impose Islamic law in northern Nigeria
  • Government troops launched a crackdown on the group January 1

Nigeria's military says it's questioning a leader of Boko Haram, the Islamic militant group blamed for the killings of hundreds of civilians, after capturing him in the country's northeast early Sunday.

Nigerian troops captured Mohammed Zangina shortly after midnight in the city of Maiduguri, said Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, a military spokesman. Zangina is a member of the Shura Committee, the movement's governing body, and has coordinated "most of the most of the suicide attacks and bombings" in several cities, including the capital Abuja, Musa said.

Nigeria launched a military crackdown on Boko Haram on New Year's Day. Human Rights Watch says the group -- whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" -- has killed more than 2,800 people in an escalating campaign to impose strict Islamic law on largely Muslim northern Nigeria.

In the past, the group attacked other Muslims it felt were on an immoral path. But it has increasingly targeted Christians with numerous attacks on churches, as well as striking police stations.

Boko Haram and other Muslim groups say the north has been starved of resources and marginalized by the Nigerian government. But the U.S. State Department has accused its leaders of having ties to the al Qaeda terrorist network and of hoping to drive a wedge between Nigeria's Christian and Muslim communities.

      CNN Recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.