Boko Haram

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Boko Haram

Boko Haram [Western education is sinful], Nigerian Islamic fundamentalist militia, officially Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad [people committed to the propagation of the Prophet's teachings and jihad]. It arose (c.2002) in Maiduguri, Borno, NE Nigeria, and subsequently spread across the nation's north, where Muslims are the majority and poverty is widepsread; it has been especially active in the states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa in NE Nigeria, especially in rural areas. Frustration with Nigerian government neglect and corruption has contributed to the influence of the group, which is loosely modeled on the Taliban. Boko Haram also has operated in areas of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger bordering NE Nigeria, with significant fighting between the Cameroonian military and group beginning in the second half of 2014.

Boko Haram mounted its first attack in 2004, and since then the group has been responsible for thousands of deaths. The sect demands the adoption of sharia, and has killed many Christians in church bombings as well as more moderate Muslims. There also have been bloody attacks on educational institutions, the mass kidnapping and enslavement of women and children, scorched-earth attacks on entire villages, and attacks outside N Nigeria. In 2011 a UN building in Abuja was struck by a suicide bomber from the group.

After Boko Haram's leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by Nigerian security forces in 2009, the group appeared to fragment. At least one of the resulting splinter groups, Ansaru, which formed in 2012 and mainly has targeted Westerners in Nigeria, has formed an alliance with Al Qaeda. In 2010 Abubakar Shekau claimed leadership of Boko Haram. In 2014 the group moved from hit-and-run attacks to holding territory, and declared an Islamic state in the parts of NE Nigeria it controlled; it also increasingly targeted political figures. Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in 2015 as it faced a counteroffensive from Nigeria and its neighbors, in which Chadian and Nigerian forces largely forced the group from towns it had controlled. By mid-2016 Nigerian forces had regained much of the territory Boko Haram had seized in 2014. It nonetheless remained capable of launching deadly attacks. Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin agreed in 2012 to establish a joint military task force to combat the group, though disagreements stalled any significant move toward its creation until 2015. The IS stated in 2016 that Abu Musab al-Barnawi replaced Shekau as Boko Haram's leader, a claim Shekau denounced.

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