Boko Haram is an extremist Islamic group in Northeastern Nigeria. It was created in 2002 in Maiduguri, a city in Borno State, Nigeria by Mohammed Yusuf. Yusuf was a trained Salafist; an adherent of a school of thought often associated with jihad. Boko Haram militants mainly inhabit areas in the northern states of Nigeria, precisely Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna.
The extremist group is currently led by Abubakar Shekau and has been a threat to the region ever since 2002. Haram is an Arabic word meaning “forbidden” while “Boko” is a Hausa word meaning “fake”.
Boko Haram is translated to “Western education is forbidden or sinful”. The infamous name Boko Haram was given to the group by local Hausa people as a result of the group’s strong opposition to Western education and culture.
Initially, the group was formed as a result of frustration with the political system and lack of social and economic development in northern Nigeria. However, currently, Boko Haram’s focus is to seek to the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria.
Boko Haram is responsible for a suicide attack on a United Nations building in Abuja in 2011, and other recurrent attacks that have killed dozens of students. The group is responsible for the abduction of more than two hundred Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014.
Boko Haram’s hundreds of followers, called Yusuffiya, consist largely of impoverished northern Islamic students and clerics, as well as professionals, many of whom are unemployed.
The group operates outside of Nigeria and has extended their radicalism to border countries Chad, Niger and Northern Cameroon. An estimated four thousand people have been killed and an estimated three hundred thousand people have been displaced with Boko Haram related violence.
Boko Haram’s Terrorist Acts and Affiliations
In 2013, the US State Department labelled Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization. While Boko Haram activities are currently confined to Nigeria, the organization is an international force to reckon with and displays no signs of slowing down. Boko Haram expressed support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) before pledging formal allegiance to it in March 2015.
On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram attacked Chibok Government Girls Secondary School and quickly overpowered the outnumbered security forces. They abducted more than two hundred female students. About fifty girls managed to escape during the incident. A few others escaped in the months following the attack.
In videos released by Boko Haram, the organization’s current leader, Abubakar Shekau, pronounced the Christian girls had been converted to Islam and would be sold as slaves or brides to Boko Haram fighters. The statement is consistent with the treatment other female captives received at the hand of Boko Haram.
Timeline of Boko Haram Attacks from April 2014 to Present
April 14, 2014
Boko Haram militants kidnap approximately 276 teenage girls from a boarding school in Chibok in Borno.
May 13, 2014
Hundreds of Boko Haram militants storm three villages in the state of Borno. Villagers resist, killing more than 200 Boko Haram fighters.
May 21, 2014 –
The White House announces that the United States has sent 80 troops to Chad to help search for the kidnapped schoolgirls.
June 3 – 4, 2014
Hundreds of people are killed in raids by Boko Haram Islamic militants in the state of Borno, with some sources putting the death toll at 400 to 500.
June 7 – 8, 2014
Suspected Boko Haram militants kidnap at least 20 young women over a weekend in the northeastern Nigeria village of Garkin Fulani.
June 18 – 22, 2014
Boko Haram militants hold the village of Kummabza in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria, hostage for four days. They abduct more than 60 females, including children, and kill 30 men in the raid.
July 17 – 20, 2014
Boko Haram raids the Nigerian town of Damboa. By the time the raid ends, 66 residents have been killed and more than 15,000 have fled.
January 3, 2015
A multi-day raid begins, where hundreds of Boko Haram gunmen seize the town of Baga and neighboring villages in northern Nigeria, as well as a multinational military base, leaving bodies scattered everywhere and as many as 2,000 people feared dead.
January 10 – 11, 2015
At least 20 are killed and 18 injured in Maiduguri after explosives strapped to a girl are detonated at a marketplace screening checkpoint. At least three are dead and 43 injured after two suicide bombs, strapped to girls, detonate in a mobile phone market in Potiskum. Boko Haram is suspected as being behind the attacks.
March 2, 2015
Boko Haram releases a video showing the apparent beheadings of two men they suspected of being spies.
April 25 – 26, 2015
The decomposed corpses of at least 400 men, women and children are found in shallow, mass graves and on the streets of Damasak in northeastern Nigeria.
April 28 – 30, 2015
Nigerian troops rescue about 450 women and girls in the Sambisa Forest during a military operation centered on destroying Boko Haram camps and rescuing civilians. According to the military, none of the rescued has been identified as the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped last April.
Boko Haram’s Effect on Nigerian Sustainable Development
Due to serious safety concerns, regions most severely impacted by Boko Haram’s terrorist activities lack much needed resources. In Nigeria’s northeast, for example, few relief agencies are present to provide healthcare, food, and clean water to those displaced by Boko Haram due to the significant risk of being attacked or kidnapped by organization fighters. The result is further impoverishment and hardship in a region already suffering from poverty and underdevelopment.
More than 1 million people are thought to have been displaced by Boko Haram as civilians flee their homes fearing violence. The refugees are joining camps in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, raising the prospect of a regional humanitarian crisis.
Sadly, the more than 200 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram have still not been found. Muhammadu Buhari, the new President of Nigeria has promised to bring back the Chibok girls. This is a much awaited commitment by the Nigerian government. When will the girls be back? The fate of the girls still remains a mystery.
June 12, 2015 – President Buhari, Bring Back Our Chibok Girls