Boko Haram (meaning: Western Education is forbidden) is the name used by a group of Islamic extremists who began an act of terrorism in the northeastern part of Nigeria – Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno State.
The group was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf who established a religious complex and school as a recruitment ground for Jihadis (Islamic militants). His political aim was to create an Islamic state.
Mohammed Yusuf was apprehended by the Nigerian military in 2009 due to his group’s defilements of national authorities and instigations of violent acts towards civilians and security agents; causing riots which resulted in a deadly clash between the group and security forces.
In a quest to put an end to the Islamic group’s activities in the state – which tends to contradict and antagonize the country’s laws – the military launched an “operation flush” battle and by July 30, 2009, about 700 people, mostly Boko Haram allegiances were killed.
Following the death of Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf, his successor Abubakar Shekua took charge of the group in 2009. Under his command, the sect had reorganized and launches a rescue mission to break out about 150 of their members from the prison in Bauchi, alongside other 600 prisoners.
The periods between 2009 and 2010, Boko Haram persistently expanded their operations with series of attacks; slaughtering and bombings in the northern cities. They serially targeted crowded and busy areas such as transportation parks, busy shopping complexes, churches, market places, police stations, stadiums and bars.
Shortly after the election and swearing in of President Goodluck Jonathan the sect penetrated and shattered the high standard of security in the country’s capital city, Abuja.
Boko Haram first set a car bomb which exploded on Friday, August 26, 2011 in Abuja’s UN building, killing more than 21 people and wounded 60.
The sect also launched another remarkable bombing that shook the entire capital city in an early morning rush hour – 6:00 am – at Nyaya bus station located at the outskirt of Abuja in May 2014. Shuttles were burnt to ashes with 88 persons reportedly dead and 200 others critically injured.
The incessant attack and sophistication of the group had led a wide speculations from citizens who believe that Boko Haram sect were getting sponsorship form top political oppositions who wanted to frustrate the elected President Jonathan’s administrations. But no strong evidence was ever found to prove such innuendoes.
A state of emergency was declared by President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2013, amid the killings of civilians and security agents in the northern parts where the insurgent is strongest – Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Adamawa states of Nigeria. It was also officially announced that the terrorists have infiltrated the security agencies and top government offices.
Boko Haram maintained steady attacks, recruiting members, kidnapping and mounting their camps in every outskirt of communities they dominated in the north.
By 2014, Boko Haram insurgence in Nigeria went out of control. The Nigerian military seemed to be no match to the group’s strategic ways of terrorism – planting bombs, land mines, kidnapping and slavery, random massacres and suicide bombings.
Precisely in the night of April 14 – 15, 2014 – the same month and year of the bus station explosion in Nyaya – 276 girls were abducted from Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok, Borno State. 57 of the girls managed to escape over the next few months. Some others, though, were martyred.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility in a video message which attracted global attention to the insurgence. In the video, their leader Abubakar Shekua threatened to sell the girls into slavery.
Criticism was hauled on President Jonathan’s administration for its incompetence on the horrible situation in the country. But there was also a seed of doubts and confusion among leaders and people as to whether the abduction of Chibok girls was true or just a ploy to further distract and frustrate Jonathan’s led administration.
Nevertheless, President Jonathan hired military intelligence from Washington to investigate and possibly rescue the Chibok girls. After all efforts were made, the operation was aborted by the US Army on grounds that, “corruption among leaders and saboteurs in the Nigerian military was an obstacle to the rescue mission’s success.”
Chibok girls are yet to be rescued till date.
The Nigeria military struggled with battles against Boko Haram Islamists with regional coalition of other affected neighboring countries including Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Therefore by March 2015 – after the election of a new government administration of President Muhammadu Buhari – Boko Haram had lost its control in most regions in Borno.
Boko Haram retreated to the Sambisa forest, where the Nigerian military pursued it, freeing thousands of captives.
In the years of Boko Haram’s strong hold in northeast Nigeria, Amnesty reported that more than 2000 people have been killed, while tens of thousands were displaces to military camps and others relocated to safe cities, across the border to other African countries and across the oceans to Europe.
And while many fighters have been killed and weapons seized, some analysts say it is too early to write off Boko Haram.
Despite numerous onslaughts by the Army, Boko Haram continues to use suicide bombers to launch attacks in Nigeria’s neighboring countries. The latest attack on June 29 targeted a Mosque in Cameroon during the break of Ramadan fast where 11 people were killed and four others injured.
Many more of the terrorists have also been arrested in Lagos and last week, July 26, the army courageously announced “No more Boko Haram’s camps.”