Boko Haram: A beginner’s terror guide

The Nigerian group is blamed for the deaths of over 3,000 people. They caused global outrage by abducting nearly 300 schoolgirls. Who are they?

Name: Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”, better known by its Hausa name ‘Boko Haram’

Boko Haram has been translated, inaccurately, but as easy shorthand, as “Western education is forbidden”.  

Who are they?
Boko Haram is a Nigerian Islamist militant group. Boko Haram’s origins lie in a group of radical Islamist youth who worshipped at the Alhaji Muhammadu Ndimi Mosque in Maiduguri a decade ago. In 2002, an offshoot of this youth group (not yet known as Boko Haram then) declared the city and the Islamic establishment to be intolerably corrupt and irredeemable ( 

What is their aim?
The organisation seeks to make Northern Nigeria an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law.  Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam that makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society (BBC). 

Where are they?
They are largely based in northeast of Nigeria, but also north Cameroon and Niger.

Leader: Abubakar Shekau 

• Born in Shekau village in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Yobe.
• Served as deputy leader to the group’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, until Yusuf was killed in 2009.
• He speaks several languages fluently: Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri and Arabic - but no English (CNN).
• In June 2013 the United States offered a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to his location. 

• According to a recent USIP and CLEEN Foundation study, the three major reasons young men join Boko Haram are unemployment and poverty, manipulation by extremist religious leaders, and a lack of awareness of the authentic teachings of Islam.

• Funding sources for Boko Haram are not certain, but is believed to be partially funded by bank robberies and by other radical Islamist groups.

How do they operate?
• At first Boko Haram attacked institutions of the Nigerian government: police stations, security officers, and military barrack.
• Large-scale attacks started in 2010, intended to exact revenge for the state’s killing of leader Mohammed Yusuf and hundreds of his followers in July 2009.
• Militants have moved on to civilian targets: churches, schools, bus stations, and mosques. The group doesn’t distinguish between Christians and Muslims in its attacks.
• The northeast, where Boko Haram has been most active, is economically depressed and among the least educated regions in Nigeria. 

Twitter: @Samooner


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