Congregation and People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad
جماعة أهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد
|Participant in the Nigerian Sharia conflict|
Mohammed Yusuf †
|Northern Nigeria, Northern Cameroon|
|Allies||Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb|
|Battles/wars||Nigerian Sharia conflict
2009 Nigerian sectarian violence
|Part of the Politics series|
Congregation and People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad (Arabic: جماعة اهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد Jamā'a Ahl al-sunnah li-da'wa wa al-jihād), better known by its Hausa name Boko Haram (pronounced [bōːkòː hàrâm], "Western education is sinful"), is a jihadist militant organisation based in the northeast of Nigeria and north Cameroon. It is an Islamist movement which strongly opposes man-made laws and Westernization. Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2001, the organisation seeks to establish sharia law in the country. The group is also known for attacking Christians and bombing churches.
The movement is divided into three factions. In 2011, Boko Haram was responsible for at least 450 killings in Nigeria. It was also reported that they had been responsible for over 620 deaths over the first 6 months of 2012. Since its founding in 2001, the jihadists have been responsible for roughly 10,000 deaths.
The group became known internationally following sectarian violence in Nigeria in July 2009, which left over 1000 people dead. They do not have a clear structure or evident chain of command. Moreover, it is still a matter of debate whether Boko Haram has links to terror outfits outside Nigeria and its fighters have frequently clashed with Nigeria's central government. A US commander stated that Boko Haram is likely linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), although professor Paul Lubeck points out that no evidence is presented for any claims of material international support.
The group has spawned an off-shoot known as Ansaru.
The group has adopted its official name to be "the Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad", which is the English translation from Arabic Jamā'a Ahl al-sunnah li-da'wa wa al-jihād(جماعة أهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد).
In the town of Maiduguri, where the group was formed, the residents dubbed it Boko Haram. The term "Boko Haram" comes from the Hausa word boko figuratively meaning "western education" (literally "alphabet", from English "book") and the Arabic word haram figuratively meaning "sin" (literally, "forbidden"). The name, loosely translated from Hausa, means "western education is forbidden". The group earned this name due to its strong opposition to anything Western, which it sees as corrupting Muslims. However, this interpretation of the group's name is disputed, and locals who speak the Hausa language are unsure what it means.
Boko Haram was founded as an indigenous group, turning itself into a Jihadist group in 2009. It proposes that interaction with the Western World is forbidden, and also supports opposition to the Muslim establishment and the government of Nigeria.
In a 2009 BBC interview, Mohammed Yusuf, then leader of the group, stated his belief that the concept of a spherical Earth is contrary to Islamic teaching and should be rejected, along with Darwinian evolution and the concept of rain originating from water evaporated by the sun. Before his death, Yusuf reiterated the group's objective of changing the current education system and rejecting democracy. Nigerian academic Hussain Zakaria told BBC News that the controversial cleric had a graduate education, spoke proficient English, lived a lavish lifestyle and drove a Mercedes-Benz.
In the wake of the 2009 crackdown on its members and its subsequent reemergence, the growing frequency and geographical range of attacks attributed to Boko Haram have led some[who?] political and religious leaders in the north to the conclusion that the group has now expanded beyond its original religious composition to include not only Islamic militants, but criminal elements and disgruntled politicians as well.
Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima said of Boko Haram: “[they have] become a franchise that anyone can buy into. It's something like a Bermuda Triangle.”
Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, the Niger State governor, has criticized the group, saying, "Islam is known to be a religion of peace and does not accept violence and crime in any form" and Boko Haram doesn't represent Islam.
The Coalition of Muslim Clerics in Nigeria (CMCN) have called on the Boko Haram to disarm and embrace peace.
The Islamic Circle of North America, the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Council on American Islamic Relations have all condemned the group.
Before colonisation and subsequent annexation into the British Empire, the Bornu Empire ruled the territory where Boko Haram is currently active. It was a sovereign sultanate run according to the principles of the Constitution of Medina, with a majority Kanuri Muslim population. The Bornu Sultanate emerged after the overthrow of the Kanem-Bornu Empire ruled by the Saifawa dynasty for over 2000 years. The Bornu Sultanate of the Kanuri is distinct from the Sokoto Caliphate of the Hausa/Fulani established in 1802 by the military conquest of Usman dan Fodio. Both the Bornu Sultanate and Sokoto Caliphate came under control of the British in 1903. However, due to activities of early Christian missionaries who used Western education as a tool for evangelism, it is viewed with suspicion by the local population. Increased dissatisfaction gave rise to many fundamentalists among the Kanuri and other peoples of northeast Nigeria.
One of the most famous such fundamentalists was Mohammed Marwa, also known as Maitatsine, who was at the height of his notoriety during the 1970s and 1980s. He was sent into exile by the Nigerian authorities, he refused to believe Mohammed was the Prophet and instigated riots in the country which resulted in the deaths of thousands of people. Some analysts view Boko Haram as an extension of the Maitatsine riots.
In 1995, the group was said to be operating under the name Shabaab, Muslim Youth Organisation with Mallam Lawal as the leader. When Lawal left to continue his education, Mohammed Yusuf took over leadership of the group. Yusuf’s leadership allegedly opened the group to political influence and popularity.
Yusuf officially founded the group in 2002 in the city of Maiduguri with the aim of establishing a Shari'a government in Borno State under then-Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. He established a religious complex that included a mosque and a school where many poor families from across Nigeria and from neighbouring countries enrolled their children.
The centre had ulterior political goals and soon it was also working as a recruiting ground for future jihadis to fight the state. The group includes members who come from neighbouring Chad and Niger and speak only Arabic.
Human Rights Watch researcher Eric Guttschuss told IRIN News that Yusuf successfully attracted followers from unemployed youth "by speaking out against police and political corruption." Abdulkarim Mohammed, a researcher on Boko Haram, added that violent uprisings in Nigeria are ultimately due to "the fallout of frustration with corruption and the attendant social malaise of poverty and unemployment." Chris Kwaja, a Nigerian university lecturer and researcher, asserts that “religious dimensions of the conflict have been misconstrued as the primary driver of violence when, in fact, disenfranchisement and inequality are the root causes”. Nigeria, he points out, has laws, giving regional political leaders the power to qualify people as 'indigenes' (original inhabitants) or not. It determines whether citizens can participate in politics, own land, obtain a job, or attend school. The system is abused widely to ensure political support and to exclude others. Muslims have been denied indigene-ship certificates disproportionately often. Nigeria's progressive opposition leader Buba Galadima says: "What is really a group engaged in class warfare is being portrayed in government propaganda as terrorists in order to win counter-terrorism assistance from the West."
Beginning of violence 
|Timeline of incidents|
|7 September 2010||Bauchi prison break|
|31 December 2010||December 2010 Abuja attack|
|22 April 2011||Boko Haram frees 14 prisoners during a jailbreak in Yola, Adamawa State|
|29 May 2011||May 2011 northern Nigeria bombings|
|16 June 2011||The group claims responsibility for the 2011 Abuja police headquarters bombing|
|26 June 2011||Bombing attack on a beer garden in Maiduguri, leaving 25 dead and 12 injured|
|10 July 2011||Bombing at the All Christian Fellowship Church in Suleja, Niger State|
|11 July 2011||The University of Maiduguri temperory closes down its campus citing security concerns|
|12 August 2011||Prominent Muslim Cleric Liman Bana is shot dead by Boko Haram|
|26 August 2011||2011 Abuja bombing|
|4 November 2011||2011 Damaturu attacks|
|25 December 2011||December 2011 Nigeria bombings|
|5–6 January 2012||January 2012 Nigeria attacks|
|20 January 2012||January 2012 Kano bombings|
|28 January 2012||Nigerian army says it killed 11 Boko Haram insurgents|
|8 February 2012||Boko Haram claims responsibility for a suicide bombing at the army headquarters in Kaduna.|
|16 February 2012||Another prison break staged in central Nigeria; 119 prisoners are released, one warden killed.|
|8 March 2012||During a British hostage rescue attempt to free Italian engineer Franco Lamolinara and Briton Christopher McManus, abducted in 2011 by a splinter group Boko Haram, both hostages were killed.|
|31 May 2012||During a Joint Task Force raid on a Boko Haram den, it was reported that 5 sect members and a German hostage were killed.|
|3 June 2012||15 church-goers were killed and several injured in a church bombing in Bauchi state. Boku Haram claimed responsibility through spokesperson Abu Qaqa.|
|17 June 2012||Suicide bombers strike three churches in Kaduna State. At least 50 people were killed.|
|17 June 2012||130 bodies was found in Plateau State. It is presumed they were killed by Boko Haram members.|
|3 October 2012||Around 25–46 people were massacred in the town of Mubi in Nigeria during a night-time raid.|
|7 May 2013||At least 55 killed and 105 inmates freed in coordinated attacks on army barracks, a prison and police post in Bama town.|
The group conducted its operations more or less peacefully during the first seven years of its existence. That changed in 2009 when the Nigerian government launched an investigation into the group's activities following reports that its members were arming themselves. Prior to that the government reportedly repeatedly ignored warnings about the increasingly militant character of the organisation, including that of a military officer.
When the government came into action, several members of the group were arrested in Bauchi, sparking deadly clashes with Nigerian security forces which led to the deaths of an estimated 700 people. During the fighting with the security forces Boko Haram fighters reportedly "used fuel-laden motorcycles" and "bows with poison arrows" to attack a police station. The group's founder and then leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed during this time while in police custody. After Yusuf's killing, a new leader emerged whose identity was not known at the time.
After the killing of Mohammed Yusuf, the group carried out its first terrorist attack in Borno in January 2011. It resulted in the killing of four people. Since then, the violence has only escalated in terms of both frequency and intensity.
In January 2012, Abubakar Shekau, a former deputy to Yusuf, appeared in a video posted on YouTube. According to Reuters, Shekau took control of the group after Yusuf's death in 2009. Authorities had previously believed that Shekau died during the violence in 2009. H Also in January 2012, a group split away to form the Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa (Jama’atu Ansaril Muslimina fi Biladis Sudan), better known as Ansaru. It has since carried out a number of high-profile kidnappings and other attacks.
By early 2012, Boko Haram was responsible for over 900 deaths.
In June 2012, the group claimed to be responsible for the suicide bombings of three churches in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna, killing more than 50 people. In August 2012, Boko Haram opened fire inside an evangelical church during a service in the northern State of Kogi, killing 19 worshippers, police have said.
State counter-offensive 
On 14 May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in a bid to fight the activities of Boko Haram. He ordered Nigerian armed forces to the three areas around Lake Chad. As of 17 May, Nigerian armed forces' shelling in Borno resulted in at least 21 deaths. A curfew was imposed in Maiduguri as the military used air strikes and shellings to target Boko Haram strongholds. The Nigerian state imposed a blockade on the group's traditional base of Maiduguri in Borno in order to re-establish Nigeria's "territorial integrity."
On 21 May, the Defence Ministry issued that statement that read it had "secured the environs of New Marte, Hausari, Krenoa, Wulgo and Chikun Ngulalo after destroying all the terrorists' camps." Armed Forces Spokesman in Borno Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa said that the curfew that had been imposed was not relaxed with the curfew timings being 18:00 to 7:00, however there was minimal traffic in Maiduguri.
Boko Haram is considered a major potential terrorist threat affecting Nigeria and other countries, and U.S. officials believe it is potentially allied with Al Qaeda. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) Commander General Carter F. Ham stated in September 2011 that three African terrorist groups – Al-Shabaab of Somalia, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb across the Sahel region, and Boko Haram – "have very explicitly and publicly voiced an intent to target Westerners, and the U.S. specifically" and that he was concerned with "the voiced intent of the three organizations to more closely collaborate and synchronize their efforts."
General Ham reiterated his concern after the Christmas Day 2011 bombings of churches in Nigeria: "I remain greatly concerned about their stated intent to connect with Al Qaeda senior leadership, most likely through Al Qaeda in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb.”
The US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence urged the Obama Administration and U.S. intelligence community in November 2011 to focus on Boko Haram as a potential threat to United States territory. In October 2012 Human Rights Watch announced that Boko Haram may have committed crimes against humanity – an offence that can lead to prosecution by the International Criminal Court – since they began documenting these actions in 2009.
Nigeria's former National Security Adviser, General Owoye Andrew Azazi, has been working with other African governments, European and Middle Eastern governments, and the U.S. government to build cooperation against Boko Haram. He met in 2010 with then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, and in 2011 with AFRICOM Commander General Ham, and other U.S. officials, and was in the United States when the congressional panel was preparing its report on Boko Haram. He participated in a CIA conference at about the same time. After the Christmas 2011 bombings carried out by Boko Haram, President Barack Obama's office issued a statement that confirmed that the U.S. and Nigeria were cooperating at a senior level against the terrorist group.
Strategy and recruiting 
In March 2012, it was reported that Boko Haram had taken a strategy to simulate convoys of high-profile Nigerians to access target buildings that are secured with fortifications. Boko Haram has also reportedly attacked Christian worship centres to "trigger reprisal in all parts of the country," distracting authorities so they can unleash attacks elsewhere.
It was gathered that the group uses internet to propagate its activities and enhance its radicalisation and circulation of extremist ideologies. Boko Haram is reportedly planning to greatly increase its following in many states. Talk of Naija reported that Boko Haram has been involved in a recruitment drive, and they are allegedly targeting Muslims between ages of 17 and 30, and have also been recruiting freed prisoners through prison breaks. The group is also known to assign non-Kanuris on suicide missions.
In February 2012, recently arrested officials revealed that "while the organisation initially relied on donations from members, its links with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, opened it up to more funding from groups in Saudi Arabia and the UK." They went on to say that other sources of funding included the Al Muntada Trust Fund and the Islamic World Society. In the past, Nigerian officials have been criticised for being unable to trace much of the funding that Boko Haram has received.
Death of Abu Qaqa 
On 19 September 2012, reports materialised in the press that the group’s spokesperson, Abu Qaqa, had been killed in a battle with Nigerian military personnel. However, the group has not confirmed this to date. The military has previously claimed to have arrested Abu Qaqa but this was denied by Boko Haram, who said the wrong man had been detained. According to the joint military task force, they had stopped a car suspected to be transporting senior Boko Haram commanders in Kano. A source close to the military said one of the people in the car tried to escape and was shot, later dying in hospital. The source said some of the people in the car informed the military that this person was Abu Qaqa. However, analysts note that Abu Qaqa is an alias and therefore establishing his true identity will be difficult.
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- More information on Boko Haram
- Who are Boko Haram? (CNN)
- Analysis of Boko Haram on IRIN News
- Timeline on IRIN News
- Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria arguing that Boko Haram is not a formal terrorist group
- Books versus bullets in north-east Nigeria RFI English
- Boko Haram's Evolving Threat, Africa Center for Strategic Studies
- Boko Haram - Council on Foreign Relations
- Boko Haram: An Annotated Bibliography - Stuart Elden