The term ‘Boko Haram‘ is a figurative combination of two Hausa words: Boko, which can literally be translated to mean ‘western education’ and ‘Haram’ which means ‘sin’. When the two words are combined, they actually mean that the western education is sinful and hence forbidden in a pure Muslim state.

As a matter of fact, this name is an incisive indication of what this group stands for – they believe that anything that’s westernized is doctored to corrupt the Muslim belief. And since Nigeria is deemed to be a pure Muslim state, then it should strictly be governed by the Sharia law. As a result, this group has been rebelling against the Nigerian government, putting it at risk of dividing the country across an ethnic and religious line.

Facts About Boko Haram – Leader

This rebel group was first heard in 2001, and it’s believed to have been founded by Muslim cleric Mohamed Yusuf. Since then, the sect which began in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno has become more influential in other parts of the North-Eastern part of the country, carrying out their heinous activities in states like Adamawa, Borno, Kaduna, Kano, Yobe and Bauchi.

Consequently, the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in most of these states as an attempt to fight them back but the war that’s forged against this group has been facing a lot of challenges since the group doesn’t have a clear chain of command nor structure, which makes it even harder for the government to identify its leader.

They instead have a cell-like structure (called diffuse) that they use to facilitate factions and splits. As reported by some of its members, this structure is divided into three splits, with the splinter group referred to as ‘Ansaru’.

In 2009, the sect carried out series of attacks on police stations and other government buildings in the Borno state capital Maiduguri. On one of those attacks, this led to shoot-outs on Maiduguri’s streets between the Army and the insurgents leading to the killing of hundreds of Boko Haram supporters.

The army eventually seized the group’s headquarters, capturing some of its fighters and killing Mr Yusuf.

Sometime in 2010, the group releases a video statement stating that Yusuf’s deputy was killed the previous year and Shekau announced himself the new leader of the group.

Kidnappings, Attacks,  Figures and Dates

Since then, the group has been linked with a series of attacks on Christians, schools, police stations and government targets, as well as the kidnapping of western tourists in Nigeria. On a positive note, this group is believed to be very supportive towards Muslims and has been sponsoring several Muslim establishments.

Since the group started, it has been behind tens of thousands of killings in North-East region of the country. Their first known attack was in 2003 involving 200 militants. Most of those killed were actually civilians with the rest being either policemen, tourists or government officials.

About 3600 deaths were said to have occurred between 2009 and 2013.

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Chibok Girls

In April 2014, the sect attacked a government secondary boarding school in Chibok, Borno state, while some of the senior girls were preparing for their final exams.

The gunmen had arrived in the school, raided the dormitories and loaded 276 girls on to stand by lorries outside the school premises. Some of the girls managed to escape while they were being taken to an unknown destination by simply jumping off the lorries and running off into the bushes.

So far, the Nigerian government have been able to rescue some girls but more than 100 of them remains missing.

Dapchi Girls 

Just a few weeks to the 4th anniversary of the Chibok abduction came the Dapchi abduction. On Monday, February 19, 2018, Boko Haram insurgents invaded Government Girls Science Technical College Dapchi, Yobe state, abducting 110 of the 906 student population

Over 20,000 people have been reportedly killed and about 2.3 million displaced by the Boko Haram sect since 2009.

Links To External Group

All claims that link this group to any external Jihadist group have been strongly disputed. But according to a military commander from the US, the Boko Haram group is sub-division of Al’qaeda-in-the-Islamic-Maghreb (AQIM). There is, however, no evidence to support this claim nor any evidence that clearly shows that they actually have an international support.

Similarly, the group seems to be less interested in international targets as the bulk of its attacks are generally directed to local organizations and the population that seem to have a religious view that’s different from the Muslim stand and the sharia laws. But on 13th November 2013, the US government stated that this group is a terrorist organization and one of the organizations that are targeted by the US government in their war against terrorism.

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The Group’s Funding

Till this date, there is no clue that clearly shows where this organization receives its funding, and all the suspected sources are actually not certain. Some people, however, believe that this group partially gets its funds from their consistent bank robberies, while others believe that the group is funded by other external Islamic groups. In February 2012, some of the group’s officials who were arrested revealed how their coordination with the AQIM opened more ways for funding from their associate groups in the UK and Saudi Arabia. In addition, they also revealed how the group gets some extra funding from the Islamic World Society and the Al-Muntada-Trust-Fund.

More to that, it has been verified that the group has been extorting money from the local government as it claims to collect ‘protection fee’. This was revealed by one of their spokesman who also went ahead to say that the governors for Kano and Bauchi, Ibrahim Sherakau and Isa Yuguda respectively, used to pay them this money on a monthly basis. But ever since the US government listed the group as a Foreign-terrorist-organization, more restrictions have been put on any national organization that gives them funding especially those from the US.

Mode of Operation and Recruitment

It was rumoured in March 2012 that the group had recruited high-profile Nigerians to target highly fortified Nigerian buildings. Even though no building has been attacked since then, they have been reportedly linked with the attacks on several Christian buildings as they attempt to distract the authority so that they can unleash other attacks elsewhere.

They have also been using motorcycles to attack security officers and government officials, which has led to a motorcycle ban in Maiduguri. Recent reports have also confirmed that the group has been using the internet to promote their radical activities and extreme ideologies as it tries to enhance its following. Most of the people who are recruited in this group are aged between 18 and 30, and mainly include young citizens and freed prisoners. They are also known for assigning the non-kauris for suicide missions.

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Nigeria Army destroys Boko Haram hideouts and flag image source

Other Facts About Boko Haram

In 2013 and September 2014, the Nigeria army announced the death of Shekua, but months later, Shekau released a video saying he is alive.

Following the kidnap of Chibok girls in 2014, a strong campaign group Bring Back Our Girls emerged. The group was headed by a former minister, Oby Ezeweksili.

According to Amnesty International, about 2,000 girls and boys have been kidnapped by Boko Haram since 2014 and are used as cooks, sex slaves, fighters and even suicide bombers.