|جماعة أهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد
People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad
Mohammed Yusuf †
|Area of operations||Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad|
|Strength||Up to 9,000+|
|Battles and wars||Nigerian Sharia conflict|
Boko Haram ("Western education is forbidden"), officially called Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad), is a militant Islamist movement based in northeast Nigeria. The group was designated by the United States as a terrorist organisation in November 2013. Membership has been estimated to number between a few hundred and a few thousand.
Boko Haram killed more than 5,000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014, including at least 2,000 in the first half of 2014, in attacks occurring mainly in northeast, northcentral and central states of Nigeria. Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by them have hampered efforts to counter the unrest. Since 2009 Boko Haram have abducted more than 500 women and children, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014. 650,000 people fled the conflict zone by August 2014, an increase of 200,000 since May.
After its founding in 2002, Boko Haram's increasing radicalisation led to a violent uprising in July 2009 in which its leader was executed. Its unexpected resurgence, following a mass prison break in September 2010, was accompanied by increasingly sophisticated attacks, initially against soft targets, and progressing in 2011 to include suicide bombings on police buildings and the United Nations headquarters in Abuja. The government's establishment of a state of emergency at the beginning of 2012, extended in the following year to cover the entire northeast of the country, resulted in a marked increase in both security force abuses and militant attacks. The Nigerian military proved ineffective in countering the insurgency, hampered by an entrenched culture of official corruption. Since mid-2014, the militants have been in control of swathes of territory in and around their home state of Borno, but have not captured the capital of the state, Maiduguri, where the group was originally based.
The official name is جماعة أهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad, a.k.a. Jama'atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda'Awati Wal Jihad, a.k.a. Jama'atu Ahlus-Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal Jihad, meaning "People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad."
The group was originally also known as 'Yusifiyya', after its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, until his death in 2009. The name 'Boko Haram', 'Western education is forbidden', is from the Arabic حَرَام ḥarām, 'forbidden'; and the Hausa word boko [the first vowel is long, the second pronounced in a low tone], 'fake' (defined as "(a) Doing anything to create impression that one is better off, or that thing is of better quality or larger in amount than is the case, (b) anything so treated ... etc.")
Western education has always been dismissed as ilimin boko; a school that teaches Western education is makaranta boko. The uncompromising hostility of the northern Nigerian Muslims towards anything remotely perceived as foreign, a mindset of boko haram that has in the past been applied even towards vocal recitation of the Quran, has historically been a source of friction with the Muslims from the middle of the country.
Except for a brief period of civilian rule between 1979 and 1983, Nigeria was governed by a series of ruthless military dictatorships from 1966 until the advent of democracy in 1999. Ethnic militancy is thought to have been one of the causes of the 1967-70 civil war; religious violence reached a new height in 1980 in Kano, the largest city in the north of the country, where the Muslim fundamentalist sect Yan Tatsine ("followers of Maitatsine") instigated riots that resulted in four or five thousand deaths. In the ensuing military crackdown Maitatsine was killed, fuelling a backlash of increased violence which spread across other northern cities over the course of the next 20 years.
Mohammed Yusuf founded the sect that became known as Boko Haram in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of the north-eastern state of Borno, establishing a religious complex with a school which attracted poor Muslim families from across Nigeria and neighbouring countries. The center had the political goal of creating an Islamic state, and became a recruiting ground for jihadis. By denouncing the police and state corruption Yusuf attracted followers from unemployed youths.
He is reported to have used the existing infrastructure in Borno of the Izala Society (Jama'at Izalatil Bidiawa Iqamatus Sunnah), a popular conservative Islamic sect, to recruit members, before breaking away to form his own faction. The Izala were originally welcomed into government, along with people sympathetic to Yusuf. The Council of Ulama advised the government and the Nigerian Television Authority not to broadcast Yusuf's preaching, but their warnings were ignored. Yusuf's arrests elevated him to hero status.
Borno's Deputy Governor Alhaji Dibal has claimed that Al Qaida had ties with Boko Haram, but broke them when they decided that Yusuf was an unreliable person. The violence of Boko Haram has also been linked to the militancy of the Arewa People's Congress, the militia wing of the Arewa Consultative Forum, the main political group representing the interests of northern Nigeria. For decades, Northern politicians and academics have voiced their fundamental opposition to Western education. The ACF is a well-funded group with military and intelligence expertise, and is considered capable of engaging in military action, including covert bombing. Co-founder of the APC, Sagir Mohammed, has stated:
"We believe we have the capacity, the willpower to go to any part of Nigeria to protect our Northern brothers in distress ... If it becomes necessary, if we have to use violence, we have to use it to save our people. If it means jihad, we will launch our jihad."
Boko Haram was founded as a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect advocating a strict form of sharia law and developed into a Salafist-jihadi group in 2009, influenced by the Wahhabi movement. It seeks the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria, and opposes the Westernising of Nigerian society that has concentrated the wealth of the country among a small political elite, mainly in the Christian south of the country. Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy; 60% of its population of 173 million (2013) live on less than $1 a day. The sharia law imposed by local authorities, beginning with Zamfara in January 2000 and covering 12 northern states by late 2002, may have promoted links between Boko Haram and political leaders, but was considered by the group to have been corrupted.:101
Boko Haram kill people who engage in practices seen as un-Islamic, such as drinking alcohol. In a 2009 BBC interview Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram (whose name means 'Western education is forbidden'), claimed that such education "spoils the belief in one God". He also said, "Like rain. We believe it is a creation of God rather than an evaporation caused by the sun that condenses and becomes rain ... Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject the theory of Darwinism."
According to Borno Sufi Imam Sheik Fatahi, Yusuf was trained by Kano Salafi Izala Sheik Ja'afar Mahmud Adamu, who called him the "leader of young people"; the two split some time in 2002-4. They both preached in Maiduguri's Indimi Mosque, which was attended by the deputy governor of Borno. Many of the group were reportedly inspired by Mohammed Marwa, known as Maitatsine ('He who curses others'), a self-proclaimed prophet (annabi, a Hausa word usually used only to describe the founder of Islam), born in Northern Cameroon, who condemned the reading of books other than the Quran.
Boko Haram conducted its operations more or less peacefully during the first seven years of its existence, withdrawing from society into remote north-eastern areas. The government repeatedly ignored warnings about the increasingly militant character of the organization. In 2009 police began an investigation into the group code-named 'Operation Flush'. On 26 July, security forces arrested nine Boko Haram members and confiscated weapons and bomb-making equipment. Either this, or a clash with police during a funeral procession, led to revenge attacks on police and widespread rioting. A Joint Military Task Force operation was launched in response, and by 30 July more than 700 people had been killed, mostly Boko Haram members, and police stations, prisons, government offices, schools and churches had been destroyed.:98–102 Yusuf was arrested, and died in custody "while trying to escape". He was succeeded as leader by Abubakar Shekau, formerly his second-in-command. A classified cable sent from the US Embassy in Abuja in November 2009, available on WikiLeaks, is illuminating:
"[Borno political and religious leaders] ... asserted that the state and federal government responded appropriately and, apart from the opposition party, overwhelmingly supported Yusuf's death without misgivings over the extrajudicial killing. Security remained a concern in Borno, with residents expressing concern about importation of arms and exchanges of religious messages across porous international borders. The government has proposed a preaching board which will certify Muslim preachers, but it has not yet been inaugurated. While most contacts described Borno as a "State of Peace" and did not expect additional attacks, the Northeast remained vulnerable to violence and extremist attacks due to lack of employment opportunities for youth, exasperated by ethnic and religious tensions."
Campaign of violence
Government officials were aware of arms shipments coming into Borno; there were reports that Yusuf's deputy had survived, and audio tapes were believed to be in circulation in which Boko Haram threatened future attacks. However, many observers did not anticipate imminent bloodshed. Security in Borno was downgraded. Borno government official Alhaji Boguma believed that the state deserved praise from the international community for ending the conflict in such a short time, and that the "wave of fundamentalism has been crushed." In September 2010, having regrouped under their new leader, Boko Haram broke 105 of its members out of prison in Maiduguri along with over 600 other prisoners and went on to launch attacks in several areas of northern Nigeria. As had been the case decades earlier in the wake of the 1980 Kano riots, the government's reliance on a purely military strategy, once again executing the leader of a militant group, would have unintended consequences.
Under Shekau's leadership, the group continuously improved its operational capabilities. After launching a string of IED attacks against soft targets, and its first vehicle-borne IED attack in June 2011, killing 6 at the Abuja police HQ, in August Boko Haram bombed the UN HQ in Abuja, the first time they had struck a Western target. A spokesman claiming responsibility for the attack, in which 11 UN staff members died as well as 12 others with more than 100 injured, warned of future planned attacks on US and Nigerian government interests. Speaking soon after the US embassy's announcement of the arrival in the country of the FBI, he went on to announce Boko Haram's terms for negotiation: the release of all imprisoned members. The increased sophistication of the group led observers to speculate that Boko Haram was affiliated with AQIM, which was known to be active in Niger.
Boko Haram have maintained a steady rate of attacks since 2011, striking a wide range of targets, multiple times per week. They have attacked politicians, religious leaders, security forces and civilian targets. The tactic of suicide bombing, used in the two attacks in the capital on the police and UN HQs, was new to Nigeria, and alien to its mercenary culture. In Africa as a whole, it had only been used by al-Shabab in Somalia and, to a lesser extent, AQIM. Since early 2013 Boko Haram have increasingly operated in Northern Cameroon, and have been involved in skirmishes along the borders of Chad and Niger. They have been linked to a number of kidnappings, often reportedly in association with the splinter group Ansaru, drawing them a higher level of international attention. Beginning in August 2014, they changed their "hit-and-run" tactics, instead occupying swathes of territory in northeast Nigeria from which the increasingly beleaguered Nigerian military were unable or unwilling to expel them.
Within hours of Goodluck Jonathan's presidential inauguration in May 2011, Boko Haram carried out a series of bombings in Bauchi, Zaria and Abuja. The most successful of these was the attack on the army barracks in Bauchi. A spokesman for the group told BBC Hausa that the attack had been carried out, as a test of loyalty, by serving members of the military hoping to join the group. This charge was later refuted by an army spokesman, who claimed, "This is not a banana republic". However, on 8 January 2012 the President would announce that Boko Haram had in reality infiltrated both the army and the police, as well as the executive, parliamentary and legislative branches of government. Boko Haram's spokesman also claimed responsibility for the killing outside his home in Maiduguri of the politician Abba Anas Ibn Umar Garbai, the younger brother of the Shehu of Borno, who was the second most prominent Muslim in the country after the Sultan of Sokoto. He added, "We are doing what we are doing to fight injustice, if they stop their satanic ways of doing things and the injustices, we would stop what we are doing."
This was one of several political and religious assassinations Boko Haram carried out that year, with the presumed intention of correcting injustices in the group's home state of Borno. Meanwhile, the trail of massacres continued relentlessly, apparently leading the country towards civil war. By the end of 2011, these conflicting strategies led observers to question the group's cohesion; comparisons were drawn with the diverse motivations of the militant factions of the oil-rich Niger Delta. Adding to the confusion, in November, the State Security Service announced that four criminal syndicates were operating under the name 'Boko Haram'.
The common theme throughout the northeast was the targeting of police, who were regularly massacred at work or in drive-by shootings at their homes, either in revenge for the killing of Yusuf, or as representatives of an illegitimate state apparatus, or for no particular reason. Five officers were arrested for Yusuf's murder, which had no noticeable effect on the level of unrest. Opportunities for criminal enterprise flourished. Hundreds of police were dead and more than 60 police stations had been attacked by mid-2012. The government's response to this self-reinforcing trend towards insecurity was not to restructure or reorientate the security services, but rather to invest heavily in security equipment, spending $5.5 billion, 20% of their overall budget, on bomb detection units, communications and transport; and $470 million on a Chinese CCTV system for Abuja, which has failed in its purpose of detecting or deterring acts of terror.
The election defeat of former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari increased religious political tension, as it broke the terms of a tacit agreement whereby, after two terms, the presidency was expected to change hands to a northern, Muslim candidate, thus distributing the country's oil wealth more fairly, through the customary corrupt channels. Sectarian riots engulfed the twelve northern states of the country during the three days following the election, leaving more than 800 dead and 65,000 displaced. The subsequent campaign of violence by Boko Haram culminated in a string of bombings across the country on Christmas Day. In the outskirts of Abuja, 37 died in a church which had its roof blown off. "Cars were in flames and bodies littered everywhere," one resident commented, words that were to be repeated in nearly all press reports delivering information about the aftermath of the bombings around the globe. Similar Christmas events had occurred in previous years. Jonathan declared a state of emergency on New Year's Eve in local government areas of Jos, Borno, Yobe, and Niger, and closed the international border in the northeast. On the next day, he announced that he was scrapping fuel subsidies. The IMF had recommended the move, but Nigerians believed that the savings of $8 billion a year would be stolen. Fuel prices quickly doubled, leading to widespread strikes and protests which were quelled a fortnight later, with army checkpoints throughout the commercial capital Lagos and police firing live ammunition and teargas.
State of emergency
Boko Haram carried out 115 attacks in 2011, killing 550. The state of emergency would usher in an intensification of violence. The opening three weeks of 2012 accounted for more than half of the death total of the preceding year. Two days after the state of emergency was declared, Boko Haram released an ultimatum to southern Nigerians living in the north, giving them three days to leave. Three days later they began a series of mostly small-scale attacks on Christians and members of the Igbo ethnic group, causing hundreds to flee. In Kano, on 20 January, they carried out by far their most deadly action yet, an assault on police buildings, killing 190. One of the victims was a TV reporter; information is limited. The attacks included a combined use of car bombs, suicide bombers and IEDs, supported by uniformed gunmen.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch published reports in 2012 which were widely quoted by government agencies and the media, based on research conducted over the course of the conflict in the worst affected areas of the country. The NGOs were critical of both security forces and Boko Haram. HRW stated "Boko Haram should immediately cease all attacks, and threats of attacks, that cause loss of life, injury, and destruction of property. The Nigerian government should take urgent measures to address the human rights abuses that have helped fuel the violent militancy." According to the 2012 US Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices,
"... serious human rights problems included extrajudicial killings by security forces, including summary executions; security force torture, rape, and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of prisoners, detainees, and criminal suspects; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; prolonged pretrial detention; denial of fair public trial; executive influence on the judiciary; infringements on citizens' privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and movement ..."
"On October 9, witnesses in Maiduguri claimed members of the JTF "Restore Order," [a vigilante group] based in Maiduguri, went on a killing spree after a suspected Boko Haram bomb killed an officer. Media reported the JTF killed 20 to 45 civilians and razed 50 to 100 houses in the neighborhood. The JTF commander in Maiduguri denied the allegations. On November 2, witnesses claimed the JTF shot and killed up to 40 people during raids in Maiduguri. The army claimed it dismissed some officers from the military as a result of alleged abuses committed in Maiduguri, but there were no known formal prosecutions in Maiduguri by year's end."
"Credible reports also indicated ... uniformed military personnel and paramilitary mobile police carried out summary executions, assaults, torture, and other abuses throughout Bauchi, Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, and Yobe states ... The national police, army, and other security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects, as well as to disperse protesters. Authorities generally did not hold police accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. Security forces generally operated with impunity in the illegal apprehension, detention, and sometimes extrajudicial execution of criminal suspects. The reports of state or federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths remained unpublished."
"There were no new developments in the case of five police officers accused of executing Muhammad Yusuf in 2009 at a state police headquarters. In July 2011 authorities arraigned five police officers in the federal high court in Abuja for the murder of Yusuf. The court granted bail to four of the officers, while one remained in custody."
"Police use of excessive force, including use of live ammunition, to disperse demonstrators resulted in numerous killings during the year. For example, although the January fuel subsidy demonstrations generally remained peaceful, security forces reportedly fired on protesters in various states across the country during those demonstrations, resulting in 10 to 15 deaths and an unknown number of wounded."
"Despite some improvements resulting from the closure of police checkpoints in many parts of the country, states with an increased security presence due to the activities of Boko Haram experienced a rise in violence and lethal force at police and military roadblocks."
"Continuing abductions of civilians by criminal groups occurred in the Niger Delta and Southeast ... Police and other security forces were often implicated in the kidnapping schemes."
"Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices and provide for punishment of such abuses, torture is not criminalized, and security service personnel, including police, military, and State Security Service (SSS) officers, regularly tortured, beat, and abused demonstrators, criminal suspects, detainees, and convicted prisoners. Police mistreated civilians to extort money. The law prohibits the introduction into trials of evidence and confessions obtained through torture; however, police often used torture to extract confessions."
In late 2013 AI received 'credible' information that over 950 inmates had died in custody, mostly in detention centres in Maiduguri and Damaturu, within the first half of the year. Official state corruption was also documented in December 2013 by the UK Home Office:
"The NPF, SSS, and military report to civilian authorities; however, these security services periodically act outside of civilian control. The government lack effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The NPF remain susceptible to corruption, commit human rights abuses, and generally operate with impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, and sometimes execution of criminal suspects. The SSS also commit human rights abuses, particularly in restricting freedom of speech and press. In some cases private citizens or the government brought charges against perpetrators of human rights abuses in these units. However, most cases lingered in court or went unresolved after an initial investigation."
State of emergency extended
The state of emergency was extended in May 2013 to cover the whole of the three northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, raising tensions in the region. In the 12 months following the announcement, 250,000 fled the three states, followed by a further 180,000 between May and August 2014. 210,000 fled from bordering states, bringing the total displaced by the conflict to 650,000. Many thousands left the country. An August 2014 AI video showed army and allied militia executing people, including by slitting their throats, and dumping their bodies in mass graves.
In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 female students from Chibok, Borno. More than 50 of them soon escaped, but the remainder have not been released. Instead, Shekau, who has a reward of $7 million offered by the US DOS since June 2013 for information leading to his capture, announced his intention of selling them into slavery. The incident brought Boko Haram extended global media attention, much of it focused on the pronouncements of the US First Lady. Faced with outspoken condemnation for his perceived incompetence, and detailed accusations from AI of state collusion, Jonathan famously responded by hiring a Washington PR firm.
Parents of the missing schoolgirls and those who had escaped were kept waiting until July to meet with the President, which caused them concern. In October, the government announced the girls' imminent release, but the information proved unreliable. The announcement to the media of a peace agreement and the imminent release of all the missing girls was followed, days later by a video message in which Shekau stated that no such meeting had taken place and that the girls had been "married off". The announcement to the media, unaccompanied by any evidence of the reality of the agreement, was thought by analysts to have been a political ploy by the president to raise his popularity before his confirmation of his candidacy in the 2015 general election. Earlier in the year, the girls' plight had featured on "#BringBackOurGirls" political campaign posters on the streets of the capital, which the President denied knowledge of and soon took down after news of criticism surfaced. These posters, which were interpreted, to the dismay of campaigners for the girls' recapture, as being designed to benefit from the fame of the kidnapping, had also been part of Jonathan's "pre-presidential campaign". In September, "#BringBackGoodluck2015" campaign posters again drew criticism. The official announcement of the President's candidacy was made before cheering crowds in Abuja on 11 November.
The US Bureau of Counterterrorism provides the following summary of Boko Haram's 2013 foreign operations:
In February 2013, Boko Haram was responsible for kidnapping seven French tourists in the far north of Cameroon. In November 2013, Boko Haram members kidnapped a French priest in Cameroon. In December 2013, Boko Haram gunmen reportedly attacked civilians in several areas of northern Cameroon. Security forces from Chad and Niger also reportedly partook in skirmishes against suspected Boko Haram members along Nigeria's borders. In 2013, the group also kidnapped eight French citizens in northern Cameroon and obtained ransom payments for their release.
Boko Haram has often managed to evade the Nigerian army by retreating into the hills around the border with Cameroon, whose army is apparently unwilling to confront them. Nigeria, Chad and Niger had formed a Multinational Joint Task Force in 1998. In February 2012, Cameroon signed an agreement with Nigeria to establish a Joint Trans-Border Security Committee, which was inaugurated in November 2013, when Cameroon announced plans to conduct "coordinated but separate" border patrols in 2014. It convened again in July 2014 to further improve cooperation between the two countries.
In 2014 Boko Haram continued to increase its presence in northern Cameroon. In May, ten Chinese workers were abducted. In July, the Vice-President's home village was attacked by around 200 militants; his wife was kidnapped, along with the Sultan of Kolofata and his family. At least 15 people, including soldiers and police, were killed in the raid. In a separate attack, nine bus passengers and a soldier were shot dead and the son of a local chief was kidnapped. Hundreds of local youths are suspected to have been recruited. In August, the remote Nigerian border town of Gwoza was overrun and held by the group. In response to the increased militant activity, the Cameroonian President sacked two senior military officers and sent his army chief with 1000 reinforcements to the northern border area.
Between May and July 2014, 8,000 Nigerian refugees arrived in the country, up to 25% suffering from acute malnutrition. Cameroon, which ranked 150 out of 186 on the 2012 UNDP HDI, currently (August 2014) hosts 107,000 refugees fleeing unrest in the CAR, expected to increase to 180,000 by the end of the year. A further 11,000 Nigerian refugees crossed the border into Cameroon and Chad during August.
The attack on Gwoza signalled a change in strategy for Boko Haram, as the group continued to capture territory in north-east and eastern areas of Borno, as well as in Adamawe and Yobe. Attacks across the border were repelled by the Cameroon military. The territorial gains were officially denied by the Nigerian military. In a video obtained by the news agency AFP on 24 August, Shekau announced that Gwoza was now part of an Islamic caliphate. The town of Bama, 45 miles from the state capital Maiduguri, was reported to have been captured at the beginning of September, resulting in thousands of residents fleeing to Maiduguri, even as residents there were themselves attempting to flee. The military continued to deny Boko Haram's territorial gains, which were however confirmed by local vigilantes who had managed to escape. The militants were reportedly killing men and teenage boys in the town of over 250,000 inhabitants. Soldiers refused orders to advance on the occupied town, and hundreds of deserters fled across the border into Cameroon.
On 17 October, the Chief of the Defence Staff announced that a ceasefire had been brokered, stating "I have accordingly directed the service chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with this development in the field." Despite a lack of confirmation from the militants, the announcement was publicised in newspaper headlines around the world. Within 48 hours, however, the same publications were reporting that Boko Haram attacks had nevertheless continued unabated. It was reported that factionalisation would make such a deal particularly difficult to achieve.
On 29 October Mubi, a town of 200,000 in Adamawa, fell to the militants, further undermining confidence in the peace talks. Thousands fled south to Adamawa's capital city, Yola. Amid media speculation that the ceasefire announcement had been part of President Jonathan's re-election campaign, a video statement released by Boko Haram through the normal communication channels via AFP on 31 October stated that no negotiations had in fact taken place. Mubi was said to have been recaptured by the army on 13 November. On the same day, Boko Haram seized Chibok; two days later, the army recaptured the largely deserted town. As of 16 November it was estimated that more than twenty towns and villages had been taken control of by the militants. There were 27 Boko Haram attacks during the month of November, killing at least 786. 120 died in an attack at the central mosque in Kano during Friday prayers on 28 November. In December it was reported that several towns in North Adamawa had been recovered by the Nigerian military with the help of local vigilantes. Bala James Nggilari, the governor of Adamawa state, said that the military were aiming to recruit 4,000 vigilantes.
Perception and assessment
The US State Department designated Boko Haram and Ansaru as terrorist organisations in November 2013, citing various reasons including links with AQIM, "thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years, including targeted killings of civilians", and Ansaru's 2013 kidnapping and execution of seven international construction workers. In the statement from the Department it was noted, however, "These designations are an important and appropriate step, but only one tool in what must be a comprehensive approach by the Nigerian government to counter these groups through a combination of law enforcement, political, and development efforts [sic]." The State Department had resisted earlier calls to designate the group, after the 2011 UN bombing. As of June 2014, Boko Haram is not currently believed by the US government to be affiliated to al Qaeda.
In March 2014, it was reported that Turkey had transported arms to Kano International Airport, presumably to supply Boko Haram. In an official statement, the 49% government-owned Turkish Airlines denied transporting arms to Nigeria; however, this was contradicted by a Nigerian Navy spokesman, who confirmed that the navy had received arms shipments in Lagos from the airline. An executive of the airline was allegedly recorded in a phone conversation with an adviser to Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan expressing concerns about the shipment, saying "I do not know whether these [weapons] will kill Muslims or Christians. I feel sinful."
The Nigerian government claims that Boko Haram is "the West Africa branch of the world-wide Al-Qaida movement with connections with Al’shabb in Somalia and AQIM in Mali." They deny having committed human rights abuses in the conflict, and therefore oppose US restrictions on arms sales which they see as being based on the US mis-application of the Leahy Law. On 12 November 2014 the US State department said they had refused to sell Cobra helicopters to Nigeria, citing concerns over the Nigerian military's ability to use and maintain the Cobras. On 1 December the US embassy in Abuja announced that the US had discontinued the training of a Nigerian battalion, at the request of the Nigerian government. A spokesman for the US state department said "We regret premature termination of this training, as it was to be the first in a larger planned project that would have trained additional units with the goal of helping the Nigerian Army build capacity to counter Boko Haram. The U.S. government will continue other aspects of the extensive bilateral security relationship, as well as all other assistance programs, with Nigeria. The U.S. government is committed to the long tradition of partnership with Nigeria and will continue to engage future requests for cooperation and training." Cameroon's foreign minister announced on 30 November that a coalition force to fight terrorism, which would include 3,500 soldiers from Benin, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria, would soon be operational.
Boko Haram gets funding from bank robberies and kidnapping ransoms. Any funding they may have received in the past from al-Qaeda affiliates is insignificant compared to the estimated $1 million ransom for each wealthy Nigerian kidnapped. Cash is moved around by couriers, making it impossible to track, and communication is conducted face-to-face. Their mode of operation, which is thought to include paying local youths to track army movements, is such that little funding is required to carry out attacks. Equipment captured from fleeing soldiers keeps the group constantly well-supplied. In February 2012, recently arrested officials revealed that while the organization initially relied on donations from members, its links with AQIM opened it up to funding from groups in Saudi Arabia and the UK. The group also extorts local governments. A spokesman of Boko Haram claimed that Kano state governor Ibrahim Shekarau and Bauchi state governor Isa Yuguda had paid them monthly. In the past, Nigerian officials have been criticized for being unable to trace much of the funding that Boko Haram has received. Boko Haram has occasionally been connected in media reports with cocaine trafficking; however, there appears to be a lack of evidence regarding this means of funding. James Cockayne, formerly Co-Director of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation and Senior Fellow at the International Peace Institute, wrote in 2012,
"Given their appreciation of the contested nature of much African governance, it comes as something of a surprise that Carrier and Klantschnig [Review of Africa and the War on Drugs, 2012] fiercely downplay the impact that cocaine trafficking is having on West African governance. On the basis of just three case studies (Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho and Nigeria) the authors conclude that 'state complicity' in the African drug trade is 'rare', and the dominant paradigm is 'repression'. As a result, they radically understate the close involvement of political and military actors in drug trafficking – particularly in West African cocaine trafficking – and overlook the growing power of drug money in African electoral politics, local and traditional governance, and security."
The Nigerian military is, in the words of a former British military attaché speaking in 2014, "a shadow of what it's reputed to have once been. It's fallen apart." They are short of basic equipment, including radios and armoured vehicles. Morale is said to be low. The country's defense budget accounts for more than a third of the security budget of $5.8 billion, but only 10% is allocated to capital spending. In a 2014 US DOD assessment, funds are being "skimmed off the top", troops are "showing signs of real fear," and are "afraid to even engage.":9
In July 2014, Nigeria was estimated to have had the highest number of terrorist killings in the world over the past year, 3477, killed in 146 attacks. The governor of Borno, Kashim Shettima, of the opposition ANPP, said in February 2014:
"Boko Haram are better armed and are better motivated than our own troops. Given the present state of affairs, it is absolutely impossible for us to defeat Boko Haram."
- "Al-Qaeda map: Isis, Boko Haram and other affiliates' strongholds across Africa and Asia". 12 June 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2014., see interactive infographic
- Bureau of Counterterrorism. "Country Reports on Terrorism 2013". US Department of State. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
- Office of the Spokesperson (13 November 2013). "Terrorist Designations of Boko Haram and Ansaru". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- Lauren Ploch Blanchard (June 10, 2014). "Nigeria's Boko Haram: Frequently Asked Questions". Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
- 19 July 2014 (2014-07-19). "Boko Haram insurgents kill 100 people as they take control of Nigerian town". Guardian. Retrieved 2014-07-20.
- Africa Program at the Council on Foreign Relations (2014). "Nigeria Security Tracker". www.cfr.org. Council of Foreign Relations. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
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