The following is an excerpt from a lengthy article on the status of terrorist organizations active in Nigeria’s predominantly Islamic north. The below details Boko Haram, a radical Islamic insurgency bent on establishing an Islamic state that has abducted more than 240 schoolgirls, 90% of whom are professed Christians in addition to killing more than 1,600 Christians in the first 6 months of 2014 alone. Learn everything you need to know about Boko Haram’s heinous schoolgirl abduction, here.
08/12/2014 Nigeria (American Diplomacy) – In addition, Boka Haram is also known as Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da’awati wal-Jihad (JASDJ), the Group of the Sunni People Calling for Jihad and the Nigerian Taliban. There are also other translations and variations on its title. For example, Boko Harem means “Western Education is Forbidden.” Its stated goal is to spread Sharia law throughout the entire country. Sharia law currently exists in 12 out of Nigeria’s 36 states.
Dawit Giorgis and Mark Lobel both focus on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, its growing numbers and its affiliation with Hezbollah and Iran as matters of concern. While IMN is definitely not to be ignored nor dismissed as a formidable movement, the dominant Jihadist group currently receiving the most attention in Nigeria and causing the most havoc for the last few years is the violent Boko Haram. Identified as Sunni affiliated, Boko Haram uses guerilla tactics and terrorism in its efforts to create an Islamic state in Nigeria. The sect’s violent activities reportedly have cost more than 3000 lives since its resurgence in 2010.
Believed to have been founded in the in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, in 2002 by a religious study group, it was transformed into an insurgent group when young charismatic Nigerian civil servant employee Mohammed Yusef assumed control. The group called themselves “the Nigerian Taliban,” and adopted a “live-off-the-land” lifestyle, establishing a camp in a remote location in northeastern Nigeria which members referred to as “Afghanistan.” Boko Haram works out of Maiduguri near the border with Chad, Cameroon and Niger. Its traditional targets are police stations, army barracks, banks, churches, markets, universities and occasionally beer-drinking and card-playing establishments. Members identify targets they perceive to be involved in “un-Islamic” activities. Boko Haram’s earlier modus operandi had been drive-by shooting and bombings from motorcycles and attacks with simple weapons such as poisoned arrows and machetes.
The group’s notorious founder and leader Mohommed Yusef was captured and executed on August 9, 2009 in the northern city of Maidugeri by the Nigerian security forces. In addition, more than a hundred Boko Haram supporters were killed during the four day-battle that ensued. The authorities chose to broadcast a video of the execution on television, which only served to help elevate Yusef to martyrdom and make his death Boko Haram’s raison d’etre for all-out vengeance. It was a turning point for the sect, forcing members to go underground and some to flee the country. However, in 2010, the group emerged as a stronger threat, graduating from simple to more sophisticated lethal weapons and ammunition and deadlier tactics. Boko Haram’s possible external affiliations, frequent attacks and increased arms strength have heightened global concern of its capability to strike Western targets in Nigeria and elsewhere.
In November, 2011 the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence released a report entitled: “Boko Haram: Emerging Threat to the U.S. Homeland”, labeling it as an Islamist terrorist group in Nigeria with possible ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM).
The report cited one of Boko Haram’s most ruthless acts, the attack on the United Nations Headquarters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja on August 26, 2011 when a suicide bomber drove a vehicle into the UN headquarters killing 23 and injuring 80 people. A member of the group labeled the United Nations as a “forum for all global evil” and claimed the attack was “designed to send a message to the U.S. President and other infidels.”
On November 24, 2011, a Boko Harem spokesperson admitted that the sect is connected to and receives assistance from al Qaeda, presumably AQIM, stating, “It is true that we have links with al Qaeda. They assist us and we assist them.”
Some analysts have determined that Boko Harem’s main focus is to perpetuate their slain leader Mohammed Yusef’s legacy and avenge the killing of its members, Others see it as a grassroots insurgency that emerged from the Muslim community’s social and economic grievances and frustrations. Regardless of its goals and driving force, so far, violence had been its main thrust and shows little indication of abating in the near future.