الولاية الإسلامية غرب أفريقيا|
West Africa Province
جماعة أهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد
Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad
Participant in the Boko Haram insurgency
and the War on Terror
The black standard of ISIL, adopted by Boko Haram
Abu Musab al-Barnawi (appointed by ISIL)|
Abubakar Shekau (rival claimant)
Mohammed Yusuf † (founder)
|Area of operations||Northeast Nigeria, Northern Cameroon, Niger, Chad|
At least 15,000 (Amnesty International claimed, January 2015)|
20,000 (Chad claimed, March 2015)
4,000-6,000 (US claimed, February 2015)
|Part of||Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (2015–present)|
|Became||Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP)|
Boko Haram, referred to by themselves as al-Wilāyat al-Islāmiyya Gharb Afrīqiyyah (Arabic: الولاية الإسلامية غرب أفريقيا, (Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP), and Jamā'at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da'wah wa'l-Jihād (Arabic: جماعة أهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد, "Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad"), is an Islamic extremist group based in northeastern Nigeria, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. The group was led by Abubakar Shekau until August 2016, when he was succeeded by Abu Musab al-Barnawi. The group had alleged links to al-Qaeda, but in March 2015, it announced its allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Since the current insurgency started in 2009, it has killed 20,000 and displaced 2.3 million from their homes and was ranked as the world's deadliest terror group by the Global Terrorism Index in 2015.
After its founding in 2002, Boko Haram's increasing radicalization led to a violent uprising in July 2009 in which its leader was summarily 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 of police buildings and the United Nations office 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 Nigeria, led to an increase in both security force abuses and militant attacks.
Of the 2.3 million people displaced by the conflict since May 2013, at least 250,000 have left Nigeria and fled into Cameroon, Chad or Niger. Boko Haram killed over 6,600 in 2014. The group have carried out mass abductions including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014. Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by them have hampered efforts to counter the unrest.
In mid-2014, the militants gained control of swathes of territory in and around their home state of Borno, estimated at 50,000 square kilometres (20,000 sq mi) in January 2015, but did not capture the state capital, Maiduguri, where the group was originally based. In September 2015, the Director of Information at the Defence Headquarters of Nigeria announced that all Boko Haram camps had been destroyed.
The group's official name is Wilayat Gharb Afriqiya, to designate it as a branch or "province" of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Prior to Abubakar Shekau's pledge of allegiance to ISIL, the group's official name was Jamā'atu Ahli is-Sunnah lid-Da'wati wal-Jihād جماعة أهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد, meaning "People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad".
The name "Boko Haram" is usually translated as "Western education is forbidden". Haram is from the Arabic حَرَام ḥarām, "forbidden"; and the Hausa word boko [the first vowel is long, the second pronounced in a low tone], meaning "fake", which is used to refer to secular Western education. Boko Haram has also been translated as "Western influence is a sin" and "Westernization is sacrilege". Until the death of its founder Mohammed Yusuf, the group was also reportedly known as Yusifiyya. Northern Nigerians have commonly dismissed Western education as ilimin boko ("fake education") and secular schools as makaranta boko.
Boko Haram was founded as a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect, influenced by the Wahhabi movement, advocating a strict form of Sharia law. It developed into a Salafist-jihadi group in 2009. The movement is diffuse, and fighters associated with it do not necessarily follow Salafi doctrine. The group has denounced the members of the Sufi, the Shiite, and the Izala sects as infidels. Boko Haram seeks the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria. It opposes the Westernization of Nigerian society and the concentration of the wealth of the country among members of a small political elite, mainly in the Christian south of the country. Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy, but 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
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 2002–04. 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. In a 2009 BBC interview, Yusuf, described by analysts as being well-educated, reaffirmed his opposition to Western education. He rejected the theory of evolution, said that rain is not "an evaporation caused by the sun", and that the Earth is not a sphere.
Before colonization and subsequent annexation into the British Empire in 1900 as Colonial Nigeria, 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. In 1903, both the Borno Emirate and Sokoto Caliphate came under the control of the British. Christian missionaries at this time spread the Christian message in the region and had many converts. British occupation ended with Nigerian independence in 1960.
Except for a brief period of civilian rule between 1979 and 1983, Nigeria was governed by a series of 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 that spread across other northern cities over the next twenty years. Social inequality and poverty contributed both to the Maitatsine and Boko Haram uprisings.:97–98
In the decades since the end of British occupation, politicians and academics from the mainly Islamic North have expressed their fundamental opposition to Western education. Political ethno-religious interest groups, whose membership includes influential political, military and religious leaders, have thrived in Nigeria, though they were largely suppressed under military rule. Their paramilitary wings, formed since the country's return to civilian rule, have been implicated in much of the sectarian violence in the years following. The Arewa People's Congress, the militia wing of the Arewa Consultative Forum, the main political group representing the interests of northern Nigeria, is a well-funded group with military and intelligence expertise, and is considered capable of engaging in military action, including covert bombing.
Mohammed Yusuf founded the sect that became known as Boko Haram in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of the north-eastern state of Borno. He established a religious complex and school that 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. It has been speculated that the reason Yusuf founded Boko Haram appears to be that he saw an opportunity to exploit public outrage at government corruption by linking it to Western influence in governance. 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. 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. 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 arrest elevated him to hero status. Borno's Deputy Governor Alhaji Dibal has reportedly claimed that al-Qaeda had ties with Boko Haram, but broke them when they decided that Yusuf was an unreliable person. Stephen Davis, a former Anglican clergyman who has negotiated with Boko Haram many times blames local Nigerian politicians who support local bandits like Boko Haram in order for them to make life difficult for their political opponents. In particular Davis has blamed the former governor of Borno State Ali Modu Sheriff who initially supported Boko Haram but no longer needed them after the 2007 elections and stopped funding them but they were then out of control. Sheriff denies the accusations.
Campaign of violence
In 2009, police began an investigation into the group code-named 'Operation Flush'. On July 26, 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". As had been the case decades earlier in the wake of the 1980 Kano riots, the killing of the leader of an extremist group would have unintended consequences. He was succeeded by Abubakar Shekau, formerly his second-in-command. A classified cable apparently sent from the U.S. Embassy in Abuja in November 2009, has been published on WikiLeaks:
[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.
According to the leaked document, 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. Nevertheless, 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" had been "crushed".
In September 2010, having regrouped under their new leader, Boko Haram broke 105 of its members out of prison in Bauchi along with over 600 other prisoners and went on to launch attacks in several areas of northern Nigeria.
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 headquarters, in August Boko Haram bombed the UN headquarters 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 Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which was active in Niger.
Boko Haram has 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 headquarters, was new to Nigeria. In Africa as a whole, it had only been used by al-Shabaab in Somalia and, to a lesser extent, AQIM.
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 north-east 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 the 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 to invest heavily in security equipment, spending $5.5 billion, 20 percent 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 ethno-religious political tensions, as it broke the terms of a tacit agreement that the presidency would alternate after two terms of office between candidates from the Christian south and Muslim north of the country. 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 that had its roof blown off. One resident commented, "Cars were in flames and bodies littered everywhere", a phrase commonly repeated in international press reports about the bombings. Similar Christmas events had been reported 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 north-east.
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. 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 that 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."
Nigeria's Borno State, where Boko Haram is based, adjoins Lake Chad as do Niger, Cameroon and the country of Chad. The conflict and refugees spilled over the national borders to involve all four countries.
In 2013 Boko Haram increased operations in Northern Cameroon, and were involved in skirmishes along the borders of Chad and Niger. They were linked to a number of kidnappings, often reportedly in association with the splinter group Ansaru, drawing towards them a higher level of international attention.
The U.S. 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 late 2013, Amnesty International 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 [Nigeria Police Force], 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.
The state of emergency was extended in May 2013 to cover the whole of the three north-eastern 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. A further 210,000 fled from bordering states, bringing the total displaced by the conflict to 650,000. Many thousands left the country. An August 2014 Amnesty International video showed Army and allied militia executing people, including by slitting their throats, and dumping their corpses in mass graves. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 130 villages and towns were attacked or controlled by the group.
In April 2014 Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from Chibok. Shekau announced his intention of selling them into slavery. More than 50 escaped. The incident brought Boko Haram extended global media attention, much of it focused on the pronouncements of the US First Lady Michelle Obama. Faced with condemnation for his perceived incompetence, as well as allegations from Amnesty International of state collusion, President Jonathan responded by hiring a Washington PR firm.
Parents of the missing girls 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 in 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.
In February 2016, the organisations International Alert and UNICEF published a study revealing that girls and women released from Boko Haram captivity often face rejection upon returning to their communities and families, in part due to a culture of stigma around sexual violence.
In 2014, Boko Haram continued to increase its presence in northern Cameroon. On May 16, ten Chinese workers were abducted in a raid on a construction company camp in Waza, near the Nigerian border. Vehicles and explosives were also taken in the raid, and one Cameroon soldier was killed. Cameroon's antiterrorist Rapid Intervention Battalion attempted to intervene but were vastly outnumbered. In July, the deputy prime minister'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. The deputy prime minister's wife was subsequently released in October, along with 26 others including the ten Chinese construction workers who had been captured in May; authorities made no comment about any ransom, which the Cameroon government had previously claimed it never pays. 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 region.
Between May and July 2014, 8,000 Nigerian refugees arrived in the country, up to 25 percent suffering from acute malnutrition. Cameroon, which ranked 150 out of 186 on the 2012 UNDP HDI, hosted, as of August 2014, 107,000 refugees fleeing unrest in the CAR, a number that was 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.
Expansion of occupied territory
The attack on Gwoza signalled a change in strategy for Boko Haram, as the group continued to capture territory in north-eastern and eastern areas of Borno, as well as in Adamawa 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 2014, Shekau announced that Gwoza was now part of an Islamic caliphate. The town of Bama, 70 kilometres (45 mi) 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; hundreds fled across the border into Cameroon, but were promptly repatriated. Fifty-four deserters were later sentenced to death by firing squad.
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 worldwide. Within 48 hours, however, the same publications were reporting that Boko Haram attacks had 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. On 28 November, 120 died in an attack at the central mosque in Kano during Friday prayers. There were 27 Boko Haram attacks during the month of November, killing at least 786.
On 3 December, it was reported that several towns in North Adamawa had been recovered by the Nigerian military with the help of local vigilantes. Bala Nggilari, the governor of Adamawa state, said that the military were aiming to recruit 4,000 vigilantes. On 13 December, Boko Haram attacked the village of Gumsuri in Borno, killing over 30, and kidnapping over 100 women and children.
Attacks in Cameroon
In the second half of December, the focus of activity switched to the Far North Region of Cameroon, beginning on the morning of 17 December when an army convoy was attacked with an IED and ambushed by hundreds of militants near the border town of Amchide, 60 kilometres (40 mi) north of the state capital Maroua. One soldier was confirmed dead, and an estimated 116 militants were killed in the attack, which was followed by another attack overnight with unknown casualties. On 22 December the Rapid Intervention Battalion followed up with an attack on a Boko Haram training camp near Guirdivig, arresting 45 militants and seizing 84 children aged 7–15 who were undergoing training, according to a statement from Cameroon's Ministry of Defense. The militants fled in pick-up trucks carrying an unknown number of their dead; no information on army casualties was released. On 27–28 December five villages were simultaneously attacked, and for the first time the Cameroon military launched air attacks when Boko Haram briefly occupied an army camp. Casualty figures were not released. According to Information Minister Issa Tchiroma,
Units of the group attacked Makari, Amchide, Limani and Achigachia in a change of strategy which consists of distracting Cameroonian troops on different fronts, making them more vulnerable in the face of the mobility and unpredictability of their attacks.
On 3 January 2015 Boko Haram attacked Baga, seizing it and the multinational joint task force military base. As the militants advanced the army fled. Some residents managed to escape to Chad. Although the death toll of the massacre was earlier estimated by western media to be upwards of 2000, the Defence Ministry dismissed these claims as "speculation and conjecture", estimating the figure to be closer to 150. On 25 January the militants advanced to Monguno, capturing the town and a nearby military base. Their advance on Maiduguri and Konduga, 40 km to the southeast, was repelled. After retaking Monguno, the army expelled the militants from Baga on 21 February.
The Baga massacre was one of the Nigerian army's biggest defeats in terms of loss of equipment and civilian casualties. Several officers were court-martialed. In October 2015 General Enitan Ransome-Kuti was dismissed from the army and sentenced to six months imprisonment. It was determined that he had failed in his duty to launch a counter-attack after retreating from the town.
West African offensive
Starting in late January 2015, a coalition of military forces from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger began a campaign against Boko Haram. On 4 February, the Chad Army killed over 200 Boko Haram militants. Soon afterwards, Boko Haram launched an attack on the Cameroonian town of Fotokol, killing 81 civilians, 13 Chadian soldiers and 6 Cameroonian soldiers.
On 7 March 2015, Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIL via an audio message posted on the organisation's Twitter account. Nigerian army spokesperson Sami Usman Kukasheka said the pledge was a sign of weakness and that Shekau was like a "drowning man". On 12 March 2015, ISIL's spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani released an audiotape in which he welcomed the pledge of allegiance, and described it as an expansion of the group's caliphate to West Africa.
On 24 March 2015, residents of Damasak, Nigeria said that Boko Haram had taken more than 400 women and children from the town as they fled from coalition forces. On March 27, the Nigerian army captured Gwoza, which was believed to be the location of Boko Haram headquarters. On election day, 28 March 2015, Boko Haram extremists killed 41 people, including a legislator, to discourage hundreds from voting.
In March 2015, Boko Haram lost control of the Northern Nigerian towns of Bama and Gwoza to the Nigerian army. The Nigerian authorities said that they had taken back 11 of the 14 districts previously controlled by Boko Haram. In April, four Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest were overrun by the Nigerian military who freed nearly 300 females. Boko Haram forces were believed to have retreated to the Mandara Mountains, along the Nigeria-Cameroon border.
Attrition of Catholic diocese of Maiduguri
A report by the Catholic diocese of Maiduguri estimated that, as of May 2015, over 5,000 Nigerian Catholics had been killed by Boko Haram. The diocese also reported 7,000 widows and 10,000 orphans among its laity. Furthermore, Boko Haram militants had taken over several parish centres within the diocese.
July mosques massacres
Boko Haram militants attacked multiple mosques between 1 and 2 July. Forty-eight men and boys were killed on the 1st at one mosque in Kukawa. Seventeen were wounded in the attack. Ninety-seven others, mostly men, were killed in numerous mosques on the 2nd with a number of women and young girls killed in their homes. An unknown number were wounded.
Suicide bombings in Chad
On 15 June 2015, two suicide bombings of police sites in N'Djamena, the capital and largest city of Chad, killed 38 people. Boko Haram later claimed responsibility for these attacks. On 11 July, a male suicide bomber disguised in a woman's burqa detonated his explosives belt in the main market of N'Djamena, next to the main mosque, killing 15 people and injuring 80. Several days after the bombing, Boko Haram claimed responsibility via Twitter, signing as "Islamic State, West Africa province."
On 20 September a series of bombings occurred in Maiduguri and Monguno. The attacks followed an announcement by Shekau refuting the army's claims of defeat. A military spokesman stated that the event showed the "high level of desperation" of Boko Haram. The Arewa Consultative Forum released a statement condemning the bombings and commending the military offensive:
The ACF condemns in strong terms the continued use of suicide bombers by Boko Haram terrorists to kill innocent people in the name of a religious war, as no religion condones such cruel and barbaric act. The ACF wishes to commend the military and other security agencies for the continued onslaught on the terrorists’ enclaves and hideouts, thereby dislodging them from their strong holds. The ACF urges the military not to be deterred by the cowardly act of the Boko Haram terrorists, as their renewed effort and determination will soon end the insurgency. The ACF also appeals to the military to intensify its synergy of sharing intelligence with the community.
On 21 October in Nganzai, Borno, according to a civilian vigilante, fleeing militants shot at four cars, killing the passengers, and burnt and looted the nearby village. On 23 October a suicide bombing occurred in a pre dawn attack at a mosque in Maiduguri. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) put the death toll at 6, while hospital sources reported 19 deaths, and a vigilante claimed to have counted 28 corpses and two suicide bombers. On the following day four female suicide bombers claimed one victim after they were intercepted by the JTF in Maiduguri, according to a NEMA spokesman.
On 27 October a military operation freed 192 children and 138 women being held captive in two camps in the Sambisa forest, and 30 militants were killed, according to a social media statement from the Defense HQ. None of the captives were those taken in Chibok in April 2014.
On 25 December gunmen set fire to the village of Kimba, killing at least 14, according to vigilantes. On 27 December gunmen armed with RPGs battled with troops for two hours in Aldawari village in the outskirts of Maiduguri, according to NEMA. On the following morning a bombing at a nearby mosque killed around 20, according to NEMA.
Federal Capital Territory / Nasarawa
On 1 October villagers in Kirchinga, Adamawa complained of a lack of security personnel after 5 residents had their throats slit during an unchallenged early morning attack. The village borders Cameroon and the Sambisa forest. On 18 October the village of Dar, Adamawe was attacked. Maina Ularamu, a former Chairman of Madagali Local Government Area, stated: "A large number of gunmen invaded the village, forcing residents to flee to a nearby bush. Two female suicide bombers disguised as fleeing villagers detonated explosives in the bush where many people were hiding, killing 12 persons." On 20 October there were reports of a military ambush in Madagali, assisted by vigilantes, in which over 30 militants were killed. On 21 October, according to vigilante reports, a joint operation in Madagali and Gwoza killed 150 militants and rescued 36 captives. On 23 October a suicide bomb at a crowded mosque killed 27 in Yola, Adamawa's capital. On 17 November an explosion at a food market in Yola killed 32, in the first Nigerian bombing since the 23 October attacks in Maiduguri and Yola. On the morning of 28 December two female suicide bombers detonated their explosives at a crowded market in Madagali. According to a local resident at least 28 were killed.
On 7 October in Damaturu, Yobe at least 15 people were killed by 3 suicide bombers. In Goniri, Yobe 7 soldiers and over 100 militants were killed, and a large arms cache was found, according to an army spokesman, who said that the recent apparent rise in suicide bombings was an indication of the success of military operations.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a procession of Shi'ite Muslims killing at least 21, on 30 November near the village of Dakozoye. A week earlier two bombers had killed at least 14 in Kano city.
On 12 January, Boko Haram attacked a Cameroon military base in Kolofata. Government forces report killing 143 militants, while one Cameroon soldier was killed. On 18 January Boko Haram raided two Tourou Cameroon area villages, torching houses, killing some residents and kidnapping between 60 and 80 people including an estimated 50 young children between the ages of 10 and 15.
On 11 October in the far north region of Cameroon two female suicide bombers killed nine people in the town of Mora. On 18 October 10 militants were killed when they attacked a Cameroon military anti-terrorist division convoy close to the border, after a military vehicle became stuck in mud. One army commander later died of his wounds. On 12 October the first 90 of a proposed deployment of 300 US troops arrived in the region to assist with training, reconnaissance and airborne intelligence using Predator drones. On 16 October more than six security vehicles were transferred to the Cameroon military. An AFRICOM spokesman said that increased cooperation had led them "to study the viability of ISR flights from a temporary location in Cameroon." The deployment is "totally separate and distinct" from operations in Chad and Niger, where 250 and 85 personnel, respectively, are conducting missions including ISR and training.
On 23 October Boko Haram fighters were driven out of Kerawa, a village of 50,000 in Kolofata, a commune in the far north region. They had briefly occupied the village until the arrival of security forces. Reports of civilian casualties ranged from eight to eleven. An army spokesman claimed the militants suffered heavy casualties. The village's military base had previously been targeted by suicide bombers on 3 September, when 30 were killed.
On 9 November two female suicide bombers killed three Nigerians during a security check in a truck full of Nigerian refugees. On 21 November a suicide attack in a suburb of Fotokol town killed four. An anonymous military official said: "The first kamikaze detonated his bomb in the house of the traditional chief of Leymarie. Five people died including the bomber. Several minutes later, three female bombers exploded their bombs close to the initial site but they didn't kill anyone else because they acted too quickly."
On 28 November two suicide bombers killed six near the military base in Dabanga, and in an attack in Gouzoudou five people were killed, according to a military spokesman. On 1 December two suicide bombers killed three, and a third bomber was killed before detonating explosives. On 2 December Cameroon's Defense Minister claimed that, at the end of November, 100 Boko Haram members had been killed and 900 hostages freed, and that a large stockpile of arms and munitions, and black-and-white ISIL flags had been seized. Information Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakari said that "The people that were freed are just villagers. The [Chibok] schoolgirls who are missing are not amongst the group."
On 6 October the Chadian army reported an attack in the border region of Lake Chad. 11 soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in the pre dawn cross-border infiltration, and 17 militants were also killed, according to an army spokesman. On 10 October 5 suicide bombers killed 33 in the market in Baga Sola, a camp for Nigerian refugees. On 1 November two dawn attacks on army posts occurred. Eleven militants and two soldiers were killed at Kaika, and in an attempted suicide bombing at Bougouma, "Two members of Boko Haram were neutralised and a third blew himself up, wounding 11 civilians", according to a government statement. A state of emergency was imposed in the western Lake Chad region on 9 November, initially for 12 days, and extended by Chad's national assembly on 18 November to four months.
On 25 September at least 15 civilians were massacred and stores were looted in a cross-border raid on a Niger village, according to anonymous military sources. On 2 October two soldiers died and four were wounded in a Boko Haram attack on a village near the Nigerian border in Niger's Diffa province. The militants also looted stores, according to Niger army officers. On 4 October, according to an aid worker, a policeman and five civilians were killed by 4 suicide bombers near the Nigerian border. On 6 October three suspected Boko Haram militants accidentally blew themselves up while transporting explosives to Bosso town in Diffa. On 21 October near Diffa town two soldiers were killed by explosives while intercepting an attack. Diffa region hosts over 150,000 Nigerian refugees. It is under a state of emergency. On 14 October a curfew and movement restrictions were imposed. At least 57 attacks occurred there from February to October 2015. More than 1,100 Boko Haram suspects have been arrested in Niger during 2015.
On 11 November two Niger military officials described an attack on a village in Bosso district in which five civilians and 20 militants were killed. A senior government official later denied that the attack had occurred, according to Reuters. On 26 November Boko Haram launched a cross-border night raid on Wogom village in Diffa province. A government spokesman, Justice Minister Marou Amadou stated: "Eighteen villagers were killed, including the chief imam for the village whose throat was slit by his own nephew."
On 30 January 2016, at least 86 people were killed and at least 62 more injured in an attack by Boko Haram militants on Dalori Village which is located 4 kilometers from Maiduguri, Nigeria. The Nigerian Army was unable to fight the militants until reinforcements arrived, causing Boko Haram to retreat.
Weakening and split
Johns Hopkins University figures indicated that Boko Haram killed 244 people in the second quarter of 2016 - the lowest quarterly figure for five years.
In early August 2016, ISIL announced that it had appointed Abu-Musab al-Barnawi as the new leader of the group. In a video released a few days later, Shekau refused to accept al-Barnawi's appointment as leader and vowed to fight him while stating that he was still loyal to ISIL's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The group has since split into pro-Barnawi and pro-Shekau factions, with reports of armed clashes breaking out between them. Shekau has released videos since the split in which he refers to his group by its previous name of Jamatu Ahlis Sunna Lidawatti wal Jihad.
On 31 August 2016, Major General Lucky Irabor stated that the militants now only controlled a few villages and towns near Lake Chad and in Sambisa forest. He further stated that the military expected recapturing the final strongholds of the group within weeks.
Claim of defeat
On 9 September 2015 the Director of Information at the Defence Headquarters, Colonel Rabe Abubakar announced that all known Boko Haram camps and cells had been destroyed, and that the group was so weakened that they could no longer hold any territory:
These terrorists have been subdued, even if they are adopting other means and as they are re-strategising, we are also doing the same and pre-empting them. We have coordinated the air and ground assaults to make sure that these terrorists' hideouts are completely decimated. As I am speaking to you, all the terrorists’ camps have completely been wiped out. So right now they are completely in disarray, have no command and control of where to plan. We have even taken over their camps that most of them abandoned and are attempting to blend into towns and communities. We have also apprehended some of them and very soon innocent Nigerians can move back to their communities. We are making a lot of headway, so people should know that Boko Haram is no longer strong enough to hold grounds. Very soon this issue of whether they are in control of any territory in Nigeria or not will come to the open. I am assuring you that they will never again recapture the territory taken from them because what is happening right now with the deployment of troops, equipment and morale will ensure that.
In December 2015 Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Nigeria, claimed that Boko Haram was "technically defeated."
Leaders, structure and members
Although Boko Haram is organized in a hierarchical structure with one overall leader, the group also operates as a clandestine cell system using a network structure, with units having between 300 and 500 fighters each. Estimates of the total number of fighters range between 500 and 9,000.
Between 2002 and 2009, Boko Haram was led by the organization founder, Mohammed Yusuf. In 2009, after Yusuf was killed, leadership passed to Abubakar Shekau, who was Yusuf's second-in command. Abubakar Shekau was born in Yobe, Nigeria between 1965 and 1975. He speaks Arabic, Hausa, Fulani, and Kanuri. On 21 June 2012 the U.S. Department of State designated Abubakar Shekau a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. On August 3, 2016, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who was previously spokesman for Boko Haram was named new leader of the group by the Islamic State, to which it is affiliated.
Kidnappings, robbery and extortion
Boko Haram gets funding from bank robberies and kidnapping ransoms. As an example, in early 2013, gunmen from Boko Haram kidnapped a family of seven French tourists on vacation in Cameroon. Two months later, the kidnappers released the hostages along with 16 others in exchange for a ransom of $3.15 million.
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 or foreigner 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. 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.
Donations from Islamist sympathizers and others
After Boko Haram was founded, it was suspected of receiving funds from corrupt local politicians to discredit their opponents and from local donors who supported its goal of imposing Islamic law while ridding Nigeria of Western influences. In more recent times, Boko Haram has broadened its funding by drawing on foreign donors, and other ventures such as fake charity organizations. In February 2012, recently arrested officials revealed that while the organization initially relied on donations from members, its links with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb opened it up to funding from groups in Saudi Arabia and the UK.
Boko Haram cloaks its sources of finance through the use of a highly decentralized distribution network. The group employs an Islamic model of money transfer called hawala, which is based on an honor system and a global network of agents that makes the financing difficult to track. 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. 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.
Ties to other militant groups
Speaking by phone to reporters in November 2012, group spokesman Abu Qaqa said: "We are together with al-Qaeda, they are promoting the cause of Islam, just as we are doing. Therefore they help us in our struggle and we help them, too." The 2012 Reuters special report details how fighters have trained with al-Qaeda affiliates in small groups over at least 6 years.
According to the UN Security Council listing of Boko Haram under the al-Qaeda sanctions regime in May 2014, the group "has maintained a relationship with AQIM for training and material support purposes", and "gained valuable knowledge on the construction of improvised explosive devices from AQIM". The UN found that a "number of Boko Haram members fought alongside al Qaeda affiliated groups in Mali in 2012 and 2013 before returning to Nigeria with terrorist expertise". AQIM is one of al-Qaeda's regional branches, whose leader, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, has sworn an oath of allegiance to al-Qaeda's senior leadership.
However, al-Qaeda Central has never officially accepted Boko Haram as an affiliate, and after the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping, al-Qaeda did not praise Boko Haram, leading some analysts to conclude that the group was too violent for al-Qaeda. The form and structure of al-Qaeda and its affiliates remains a matter of debate within the US Intelligence Community, and the exact current status of ties between Boko Haram and the al-Qaeda organization remains unclear.
In July 2014, Shekau released a 16-minute video where he voiced support for ISIL's head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda's head Ayman al-Zawahiri and Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. In March 2015, Shekau formally pledged allegiance to ISIL, which was accepted by the group's spokesman several days later.
Response by Nigerian authorities
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. Senior officers are alleged to be skimming military procurement budget funds that are intended to pay for the standard issue equipment of soldiers. The country's defense budget accounts for more than a third of the security budget of $5.8 billion, but only 10 percent is allocated to capital spending. In a 2014 United States Department of Defense assessment, funds are being "skimmed off the top", troops are "showing signs of real fear", and are "afraid to even engage".:9
In the summer of 2013, the Nigerian military shut down mobile phone coverage in the three north-eastern states to disrupt the group's communication and ability to detonate IEDs. Accounts from military insiders and data of Boko Haram incidences before, during and after the mobile phone blackout suggest that the shut down was 'successful' from a military- tactical point of view. However it angered citizens in the region (owing to negative social and economic consequences of the mobile shutdown) and engendered negative opinions toward the state and new emergency policies. While citizens and organizations developed various coping and circumventing strategies, Boko Haram evolved from an open network model of insurgency to a closed centralized system, shifting the center of its operations to the Sambisa Forest. This fundamentally changed the dynamics of the conflict.
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.
In March 2015, it was reported that Nigeria had employed hundreds of mercenaries from South Africa and the former Soviet Union to assist in making gains against Boko Haram before the March 28 election.
In October 2015, General David M. Rodriguez, head of U.S. Africa Command, reported that Boko Haram has lost territory, directly contradicting statements made by Boko Haram. U.S. efforts to train and share intelligence with regional military forces is credited with helping to push back against Boko Haram, but officials warn that the group remains a grave threat.
Dates of designation as a terrorist organization
|New Zealand||20 August 2012|
|United Kingdom||10 July 2013|
|United States||14 November 2013|
|Canada||24 December 2013|
|United Nations||22 May 2014|
|Australia||26 June 2014|
|United Arab Emirates||15 November 2014|
United States responses
In 2012, the U.S. Department of State had an internal debate on whether to place Boko Haram on its list of Foreign Terrorist Organization. The Bureau of Counterterrorism leaned towards designation while the Bureau of African Affairs urged caution. Officials from the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and a number of members of Congress urged the State Department to designate Boko Haram as an FTO. The Nigerian government voiced its opposition to an FTO designation, citing concerns that it would raise Boko Haram's stature and have implications for humanitarian aid in the region where Boko Haram operated. Twenty academic experts on Nigeria signed a letter to the State Department urging it not to designate Boko Haram as an FTO, saying that it would hinder NGO efforts in the region and might legitimize the Nigerian Army's human rights abuses in its efforts to fight Boko Haram.
The U.S. State Department designated Boko Haram and its offshoot Ansaru as terrorist organizations in November 2013, citing Boko Haram's links with AQIM and its responsibility for "thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years including targeted killings of civilians." The State Department also cited Ansaru's 2013 kidnapping and execution of seven international construction workers. In the statement 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." The State Department had resisted earlier calls to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group after the 2011 Abuja United Nations bombing. The U.S. government does not believe Boko Haram is currently (2014) affiliated with al Qaeda Central, despite regular periodic pledges of support and solidarity from its leadership for al-Qaeda, but is particularly concerned about ties between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (including "likely sharing funds, training, and explosive materials").
Efforts to cooperate in freeing the Chibok schoolgirls had faltered, largely due to mutual distrust; the infiltration of the military by Boko Haram meant that U.S. officials were wary of sharing raw intelligence data, and the Nigerian military had failed to supply information that might have aided U.S. drone flights in locating the kidnapped girls. The Nigerian government claims that Boko Haram is "the West Africa branch of the world-wide Al-Qaida movement with connections" to al-Shabaab in Somalia and AQIM in Mali. The Nigerian government denies having committed human rights abuses in the conflict, and therefore oppose U.S. restrictions on arms sales, which they see as being based on the U.S. mis-application of the Leahy Law due to concerns over human rights in Nigeria. The U.S. had supplied the Nigerian army with trucks and equipment but had blocked the sale of Cobra helicopters. In November 2014 the U.S. State department again refused to supply Cobras, citing concerns over the Nigerian military's ability to maintain and use them without endangering civilians.
On 1 December 2014 the U.S. embassy in Abuja announced that the U.S. had discontinued training a Nigerian battalion at the request of the Nigerian government. A spokesman for the U.S. 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."
On 24 September 2015 the White House announced a military aid package for African allies fighting Boko Haram. The package included up to $45 million for training and other support for Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. On 14 October the White House released a statement, in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, announcing the deployment of 300 troops to Cameroon to conduct airborne ISR: "These forces are equipped with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security, and they will remain in Cameroon until their support is no longer needed."
African Coalition force
After a series of meetings over many months, Cameroon's foreign minister announced on 30 November 2014 that a coalition force to fight terrorism, including Boko Haram, would soon be operational. The force would include 3,500 soldiers from Benin, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Discussions between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) about a broader based military force have been scheduled.
French and British assistance
France and the UK, in coordination with the United States, have sent trainers, and material assistance to Nigeria to assist in the fight against Boko Haram. France planned to use 3,000 troops in the region for counter-terrorism operations. Israel and Canada also pledged support.
In October 2015, Colombia sent a delegation of security experts to assist the Nigerian authorities and share expertise on security and counter terrorism. In January 2016, a delegation led by Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai also visited Colombia to exchange information in regards to the war against Boko Haram.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boko Haram.|
|Wikinews has news related to:|
- Diffa/Niger : Attacks by Boko Haram (as of 04 October 2015)
- "Boko Haram: Its Beginnings, Principles and Activities in Nigeria" (PDF). Kano, Nigeria: Islamic Studies Department, University of Bayero.
- Counter Extremism Project profile
- "Silencing Boko Haram: Mobile Phone Blackouts and Counterinsurgency in Nigeria's Northeast Region" by Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob & Idorenyin Akpan (March 2015)
- National Geographic, March 2015 How Northern Nigeria's Violent History Explains Boko Haram