Boko Haram

Formed2002
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackDecember 24, 2003: Boko Haram members attacked and occupied police stations in Geiam and Kanamma in Yobe State, raising the flag of the Afghanistan Taliban over buildings for several days (unknown killed, unknown wounded). [1]
Last AttackAugust 21, 2016: Militants attacked Kuburvwa village, killing civilians and raping women (11 killed, unknown wounded). [2]
UpdatedAugust 26, 2016

Narrative Summary

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 when Mohammad Yusuf opened a religious complex with an Islamic school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, which attracted students from poor Muslim families across the country. Reportedly, Yusuf used the school to convert and recruit future jihadis. [3] Boko Haram expanded into Yobe state, where it set up another base, nicknamed “Afghanistan,” near the Nigeria-Niger border in 2003. [4] Prior to 2009, the group did not seek to overthrow the Nigerian government, and Yusuf instead preached a doctrine of withdrawal.

Open conflict erupted in July 2009 following a violent clash between Boko Haram members and the police, when militants refused to adhere to a law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. This incident incited violent uprisings in Bauchi and quickly spread to Borno, Yobe, and Kano. [5].

After suffering severe losses in 2009, Boko Haram regrouped in 2010 under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, Yusuf’s second-in-command. [6] The frequency, lethality, and sophistication of Boko Haram’s attacks increased dramatically under Shekau, allegedly as a result of increased cooperation with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In protest of the election of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from southern Nigeria, Boko Haram carried out a series of bombings during Jonathan’s presidential inauguration in May 2011. [7] The escalation of violence continued throughout the year, including an attack on the Abuja UN building in August, which served as Boko Haram’s first foreign target. [8].  President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the areas of Yobe, Borno, Plateau, and Niger later that year. [9]. Ansaru is more internationally focused than Boko Haram and frequently targets foreigners in northern Nigeria and neighboring countries. [10].

Boko Haram gained significant notoriety when it kidnapped over 300 young girls from a secular school in Chibok, Nigeria in April 2014. Just over 50 girls were able to escape immediately following the incident. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on Twitter led several other campaigns to spring up on various social media websites in hopes of pressuring the Nigerian government to do more to recover the girls. [11]. In October 2014, the Nigerian government announced that it had negotiated a ceasefire with Boko Haram and that schoolgirls would be released shortly. However, within two weeks of the announcement, Boko Haram released a video in which Shekau denied the ceasefire and claimed that the missing girls had already been converted to Islam and were married off to Boko Haram members. [12] As of May 2016, 219 girls were still missing, but a few of the girls were rescued, and were found living as wives and mothers among Boko Haram fighters.  Those rescued reported that most of the captured girls were still alive, with the exception of 6. [13] The Chibok Kidnapping prompted the United States to deploy additional counterterrorism resources to Nigerian law enforcement agencies. [14]

Despite international help, Jonathan’s administration faced criticism for its inability to suppress Boko Haram’s insurgency. In January 2015, Boko Haram unleashed a massive assault on the villages of Baga and Doron Baga in Borno State and claimed control over the area. Local officials suggest that as many as 2,000 people were killed in these attacks, but the Nigerian government capped the death toll at 150. [15] A few weeks later, following a campaign stop by Jonathan, the militants tried to attack Borno capital city, Maiduguri, but government troops were able to prevent the militants from taking the city. Other Boko Haram militants simultaneously initiated a raid against the town of Monguno, only 80 miles north of the Maiduguri, and successfully took the city. Boko Haram launched a second, but ultimately unsuccessful attack on Maiduguri a week later. [16] 

Given the dramatic rise in civilian deaths, the Nigerian government took more direct action in fighting the militant organization.  On February 7, 2015, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that national elections would be postponed for six weeks in order for security forces to launch an offensive to regain territory controlled by Boko Haram. [17] Estimates suggest that Boko Haram controlled about 20,000 square miles of territory in northeastern Nigeria. [18] Later that month, the African Union (AU) endorsed a military coalition to “to prevent the spread of Boko Haram” and “eradicate their presence” in Nigeria. [19] Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Benin pledged troops for the 7,500-strong Multinational Joint Task Force. The AU decided that this coalition would protect the Nigerian border and the Chad Lake region, but not participate in the conflict within Nigeria. [20] The force was deployed on March 6, 2015, and the offensive against Boko Haram began with Chadian and Nigerian airstrikes that drove the organization out of a dozen towns in Northern Nigeria. [21]  Subsequently, Chadian troops invaded a Boko Haram stronghold in Gamboru, reportedly killing 200 militants and losing 21 Chadian soldiers. From February 15 to February 22, Boko Haram suffered 300 casualties and lost 11 towns in fighting against the Nigerian Army. [22] On February 24, the Boko Haram stronghold of Dikwa fell to the Nigerian Army, and the organization suffered major casualties. [23] On March 27, the Nigeria Army captured the supposed headquarters of Boko Haram in Gwoza, and by the end of the month, the Nigerian army had freed 700 of the 2,000 female hostages captured by Boko Haram.. [24]  These women reported that Boko Haram was suffering from shortages of weapons, fuel, and food, leading to serious internal fracturing. [25] In addition, Cameroonian troops reported to have killed 80 Boko Haram militants and arrested 1,000 supporters; Nigerian troops also claimed 160 arrests. [26]

Despite the coalition’s successes, Boko Haram remained strong enough to respond violently to the military offensive and attacked civilians. In response to the February 2015 offensive in Gamboru, Boko Haram murdered 70 civilians in a neighboring Cameroonian town, Fotokol and attacked the village of Ngouboua in Chad. [27]  On March 28, the Nigerian Election Day, Boko Haram killed 41 people in an attempt to keep civilians from the polls. Millions of citizens still voted in the closely contested election. [28]

Boko Haram gained a great deal of notoriety for its violent attacks and decided to expand its jihadi network.  In early March 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in an audio message, featuring Shekau, posted online. [29] Reportedly, Boko Haram militants were traveling to train at IS military camps at that time. [30]  When IS accepted the pledge in late March, it referred to Boko Haram as the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP), a name that has subsequently appeared on social media accounts linked with IS, and also encouraged Muslims to join Boko Haram and other West African militants groups. [31] Some analysts argue the affiliation between Boko Haram and IS was a desperate move by Boko Haram “to boost its members’ morale, image and attract local support” after the African Union coalition force drove the group into the Sambisa Forest. [32]  [33] In April 2015, the Nigerian government considered the offensive against Boko Haram to be in its last stages: Boko Haram controlled no towns and the coalition was closing in on the Sambisa Forest. [34] [35]

Despite being pushed out of its stronghold, Boko Haram has continued operations into 2016, mainly employing suicide bombers to attack civilian, police and government targets throughout Nigeria.  As of March 2016, reportedly 1,000 militants from Boko Haram are fighting for IS in Libya, by a way of a special smuggling route from Nigeria to Libya. [36] After IS accepted Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance, on August 3, 2016, it announced Abu Musab al-Barnawi, son of the founder of Boko Haram, would assume leadership of the group.  Two days after the announcement, Shekau released statements that Barnawi’s followers were manipulating IS leadership in order to cut him off in a sort of coup; he said that he and his followers would not follow Barnawi, which reportedly led to splits within Boko Haram. [37] It is currently unclear to what extent Shekau or Barnawi has power over Boko Haram militants. [38]  On August 23, 2016, the media reported that Shekau was fatally wounded by the Nigerian military; however, no sources have confirmed his injury or a potential death. [39]

Leadership

  1. Mohammad Yusuf (2002 to July 30, 2009): Yusuf was the founder and first leader of Boko Haram. He was killed by government forces in custody, reportedly, while trying to escape, after the July 2009 uprisings in northeastern Nigeria.[40]
  2. Mamman Nur (2002 to January 2012): Nur was third-in-command under Yusuf and second-in-command under Shekau. Frictions with Shekau lead Nur’s followers to form a splinter group called Ansaru in January 2012. Nur’s role in the splinter faction or its formation is unknown. Nur reportedly directed the 2011 UN bombing. [41]
  3. Abubakar Shekau (2010 to Present): Shekau was the second leader of Boko Haram. There have been at least three reports of Shekau’s death, but he continues to appear in jihadist videos released by Boko Haram, mocking these claims. On August 23, 2016, the media reported that Shekau was fatally wounded by the Nigerian military, but no sources have confirmed his death. [42]
  4. Abu Musab al-Barnawi (August 3, 2016 to Present): After the Islamic State (IS) accepted Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance in late March 2015, IS announced that Barnawi would assume leadership on August 3, 2016; however, two days after it was announced, Shekau released statements that claimed Barnawi was an infidel and that the leadership change was a coup on part of IS. Before gaining the leadership role, Barnawi worked as a spokesman for Boko Haram in its early days, but in 2013 he defected and joined Ansaru, a splinter group off of Boko Haram. Barnawi reportedly rejoined Boko Haram in 2015. Barnawi is the son of MOammad Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram. [43]

Ideology & Goals

Boko Haram, which translates roughly to “Western education is forbidden,” is a Sunni Islamist militant organization that opposes western education and influence in Nigeria. Its leader Mohammad Yusuf was heavily influenced by the opinions of Ibn Taymiyyah, a 14th century scholar of Islamic fundamentalism. Boko Haram originally advocated a doctrine of withdrawal, but did not seek to overthrow the Nigerian government. Under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the group seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in place of the Nigerian government. [44] [45].

Size Estimates

Designated/Listed


Resources

Boko Haram is mainly funded by its bank robberies, extortion efforts, and ransom payments from kidnappings. The group has reportedly received funding from AQIM and acquired weapons from former Libyan stockpiles through these ties. [48]

 

Geographical Locations

Boko Haram was founded in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, Nigeria.  Before the 2015 Nigerian government offensive, the group focused its attacks on the northern states of Yobe, Jano, Bauchi, Borno, and Kaduna. It additionally conducted limited operations in Cameroon and Niger. [49] [50] Prior to or starting in 2012, U.S. officials believed that Boko Haram frequently trains in northern Mali with AQIM. [51] 

 In 2015, the African Union and Nigerian government coalition pushed Boko Haram into a final stronghold in the 23,000 square mile Sambisa Forest in northeastern Nigeria. [52]

Targets & Tactics

Boko Haram primarily targets state and federal buildings, including police stations and prisons, but it has increasingly turned towards civilian targets under Abubakar Shekau’s leadership, such as schools, religious institutions, markets, and entire towns. While the group continues to rely on arson and small arms to conduct most of its attacks, it has also used IEDs, car bombs, and suicide tactics since 2011. [53]

Political Activities

Boko Haram has refrained from working within the Nigerian political system and from cooperating with the government in general. Alex Badeh, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, announced on October 17, 2014 that the government had negotiated a ceasefire with Boko Haram. He also claimed that the group agreed to release the 300 school girls that had been abducted in the Chibok kidnapping in April. However, Shekau denied claims that the group had reached a truce with government forces in a video released on October 31,, 2014. Shekau added that the school girls would not be released and had been married off. [54]

Major Attacks

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, more than 10,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million people have been displaced because of violence caused by Boko Haram. [55]

  1. December 24, 2003: Boko Haram members attacked and occupied police stations in Geiam and Kanamma in Yobe State, raising the flag of the Afghanistan Taliban over buildings for several days (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[56]
  2. July 27, 2009: Boko Haram launched a series of attacks in Maiduguri, Borno, Nigeria, setting several churches, police stations, and a prison on fire (75+ killed, unknown wounded).[57]
  3. August 26, 2011: A suicide bomber from Boko Haram crashed a car filled with explosives into the main building of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja (23 killed, 87 wounded).[58]
  4. January 20, 2012: Boko Haram coordinated a series of bomb attacks and shooting sprees in the city of Kano, mainly targeting police stations (187 killed, 50 wounded).[59]
  5. September 17, 2013: Boko Haram raided the town of Benisheik. Members disguised in military uniforms set up checkpoints just outside of the town and shot all those who tried to flee (142 killed, unknown wounded).[60]
  6. April 14, 2014: Boko Haram kidnapped more than 300 girls from ages 16 to 18 from a secular school in Chibok over the night of the 14th-15th. In November 2014, Boko Haram claimed that the abducted girls had been converted to Islam and married off. As of May 2016, 219 girls were still missing, but a few of the girls were rescued and were found living as wives and mothers among Boko Haram fighters. Those rescued reported that most of the girls were still alive, with the exception of 6 (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[61]
  7. July 27, 2014: Boko Haram kidnapped the wife of the Cameroon Deputy Prime Minister, Amadou Ali, in an attack against the town of Kolofata in northern Cameroon. Akaoua Babiana, along with 27 others who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram on other occasions, were freed in October 2014 (3 killed, unknown wounded).[62]
  8. January 3, 2015: Boko Haram attacked the towns of Baga and Doron Baga, Borno, Nigeria from January 3-7. Reports indicate that Boko Haram shot indiscriminately from armored vehicles and set over 620 buildings in Baga and 3,100 in Doron Baga on fire. On January 12, the Nigerian government reported that only 150 people had died in the attacks, but satellite images released by Amnesty International on January 15 suggest the number of dead much higher (2,000 killed, unknown wounded).[63]
  9. January 18, 2015: Boko Haram kidnapped 80 hostages from northern Cameroon, many of which were children. Cameroon’s army was able to free 24 of the kidnapped hostages, while pursuing Boko Haram members back to Nigeria (3 killed, 0 wounded).[64]
  10. January 25, 2015: Boko Haram launched simultaneous raids on Borno State’s capital, Maidiguri, and the nearby town of Monguno. Government troops were able to prevent the militants from taking the Maidiguri, but Monguno fell to Boko Haram’s control (8 killed, 27 wounded).[65]
  11. February 2015: Boko Haram suffered 300 casualties and lost control of 11 towns in conflict against the Nigerian Army (300 killed, unknown wounded).[66]
  12. February 2015: Chadian troops invaded a Boko Haram stronghold in Gamboru killing 200 militants. In response, Boko Haram murdered 70 civilians in a neighboring Cameroonian town, Fotokol (300 killed, unknown wounded).[67]
  13. February 2015: Chad and Nigeria conducted airstrikes to drive Boko Haram out of a dozen villages in northeastern Nigeria (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[68]
  14. February 13, 2015: Around 30 Boko Haram militants attacked the village of Ngouboua in Chad. Witnesses report that the militants torched two-thirds of the homes in the village before they were pushed back by the Chadian military. This was Boko Haram’s first attack in Chad, and analysts believe it is a revenge attack for Chad joining Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon in a military coalition against them (10 killed, 4 wounded).[69]
  15. February 24, 2015: Boko Haram’s stronghold of Dikwa fell and the organization suffered major casualties (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[70]
  16. March 27, 2015: The Nigerian army captured the supposed headquarters of Boko Haram in Gyoza (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[71]
  17. March 28, 2015: Boko Haram killed 41 people in an attempt to keep civilians from the polls on the Nigerian Election Day. However, millions of citizens still voted in the closely contested election (41 killed, unknown wounded).[72]
  18. August 18, 2015: 150 civilians drowned in a river or were shot dead fleeing from Boko Haram gunmen in a village in the northeastern Nigerian province, Yobe (150 killed, unknown wounded).[73]
  19. August 21, 2015: Militants on horseback shot at civilians in remote villages in northeastern, Nigeria (79 killed, unknown wounded).[74]
  20. August 25, 2015: Two teenage suicide bombers, one male and one female, detonated explosives in Damaturu, Nigeria (5 killed, 41 wounded).[75]
  21. October 2015: Boko Haram fighters bombed Abuja, Nigeria and suicide bombed a mainly Nigerian refugee camp in Chad (54 killed, 51 wounded).[76]
  22. November 27, 2015: A Boko Haram suicide comber detonated explosives in Dakasoye, Kano, Nigeria, targeting a Shiite religious procession (22 killed, 38 wounded).[77]
  23. December 2015: Explosives detonated at a mosque in Maiduguri, Borno, Nigeria (20 killed, 65 wounded).[78]
  24. February 1, 2016: Militants attacked Dalori, Nigeria with suicide bombs and allegedly burned children alive (86 killed, unknown wounded).[79]
  25. February 9, 2016: Two female suicide bombers detonated explosives at a displaced persons camp in Dika, Nigeria (58 killed, 80+ wounded).[80]
  26. August 21, 2016: Militants attacked Kuburvwa village, killing civilians and raping women (11 killed, unknown wounded).[81]

Relationships with Other Groups

Boko Haram has trained alongside and received funding and other resources from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) beginning in or prior to 2012. [82] Many experts argue that the increasing sophistication of Boko Haram’s activities under Abubakar Shekau indicates cooperation as early as 2010. [83] Although Shekau and other affiliates occasionally pledge solidarity with Al Qaeda, the U.S. State Department does not believe Boko Haram has contact with Al Qaeda’s central leadership. [84]

In January 2012, members of Boko Haram who opposed the group’s killing of Muslims split off from Boko Haram to form Ansaru. The group was originally comprised of those who supported Mamman Nur’s leadership over Shekau’s.  Nur’s role in the formation and activities of the group are unknown. [85]. The splinter faction is more internationally focused than Boko Haram and frequently targets foreigners in northern Nigeria and neighboring countries. [86]. While both groups united in praise of the November 2012 prison breaks, Ansaru distanced itself from Boko Haram when the latter commited attacks against Muslims. [87] 

In early March 2015, 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in an online audio message that featured Shekau. [88] At that time, Boko Haram militants were allegedly traveling to train at IS military camps. [89] In late March, IS accepted Boko Haram’s pledge, referring to Boko Haram as the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP), a name that has subsequently appeared on social media accounts linked with IS. [90] IS also encouraged Muslims to join Boko Haram and other militants that operate in West Africa. However, some analysts believe the allegiance between Boko Haram and IS is a desperate move by Boko Haram “to boost their members’ morale, image and attract local support” after the African Union coalition force drove the group into the Sambisa Forest, believed to be the last remaining stronghold of the organization. [91]  [92] After IS accepted Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance, on August 3, 2016, it announced Abu Musab al-Barnawi, son of the founder of Boko Haram, would assume leadership of the group.  Two days after the announcement, Shekau released statements that Barnawi’s followers were manipulating IS leadership in order to cut him off in a sort of coup; he said that he and his followers would not follow Barnawi, which reportedly led to splits within Boko Haram. [93] It is currently unclear to what extent Shekau or Barnawi has power over Boko Haram militants. [94]

Community Relationships

Boko Haram primarily draws support from young Muslim men living in the impoverished areas of northeastern Nigeria. Many believe that the abusive response of government forces to Boko Haram activity, including forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of those suspected of supporting Boko Haram, further disenfranchises these men. [95] [96] While Boko Haram enjoyed a relatively high amount of popularity under Yusuf, the group’s indiscriminate targeting of fellow Muslims has caused support to dwindle. In particular, Jama’ata Nasril Islam, a group representing Nigeria’s Muslims, has condemned Boko Haram’s action as inhumane and “un-Islamic.”[97] 


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