The group Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad, known as Boko Haram, is an extremist Islamic group in Nigeria that has engaged in guerrilla warfare across the north of Nigeria. Its violent attacks on government offices, the United Nations, and civilians threaten to destabilize Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. A range of conflicting narratives persist around Boko Haram, and the group’s origins, motivations, and future plans remain a matter of debate.
AREAS OF OPERATIONS
Despite heightened security efforts, the group has managed to continue with its attacks. Since its inception, Boko Haram's primary areas of focus have been in the northern states of Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna, although recent trends suggest that activities are moving southwards, with attacks being recorded in Plateau state and Abuja.
Since its renaissance following the near terminal battle of Maiduguri in the summer of 2009, Boko Haram has been on an upward trajectory. Over the past three years it has embraced ever more ambitious goals (from encouraging northern Muslims to live more piously to turning Nigeria into an Islamic state), extended its area of operations (attacking targets as far south as Abuja), lengthened its list of targets (there is now no-one it is not prepared to kill), and developed its operational capabilities (its 2011 assault on the UN was the first suicide bombing ever carried out in Nigeria).
AQIM'S GROWNING INFLUENCE
Arguably these latest attacks mark the next stage in the group’s evolution and offer vital and disturbing insights into how it might develop in the future. The assaults on Gujba, Benisheik, Dumba and Mamudo not only confirm many of the group’s earlier developments but also Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) growing influence over it. These atrocities bear striking similarities to those carried out by AQIM and its various forbears in Algeria in the mid-1990s.
THREE POSSIBLE PULL FACTORS:
- The first is the indiscriminate killing of its members. In return, Boko Haram’s leaders encourage its members to target people and institutions that have harmed it: policemen, officials, prison guards, clerics and journalists who speak out against it. Its members have twice attacked This Day, a newspaper close to the government.
- Boko Haram’s second grievance is economic inequality. It blames the government at every level for corruption and greed. Nigeria earns roughly $50 billion a year from its southern oil yet its northern citizens hardly benefit at all.
- The most recent pull factor is Boko Haram’s emancipation into a radicalised Islamic organisations where influences from groups like al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Shabaab could be observed in the increase in intensity and nature of attacks. These influences are two pronged, namely direct (contact between groups and support networks) and indirect (copy-cat actions).
ON LINE PRESENCE
Also indicative of Boko Haram’s possible links with AQIM is its posting of video messages, which conform to an al-Qaeda, international jihadi “style”, and a new online presence - a tactic taken to a new level by al-Shabaab with its launch on Twitter. In the aftermath of the UN embassy bombing, Agence France Presse obtained a video in which Mohammed Abul Barra, a 27-year-old from Maiduguri, explains his reason for driving an explosive-laden car into the UN. The speed at which the group developed the capability to produce large and effective improvised explosive devices and enlist suicide bombers to deliver them suggests links to groups like AQIM.
On June 14, 2010, Abu Musab Abd al-Wadoud, the leader of AQIM told Al Jazeera that his group would provide Boko Haram with support and weapons to build strategic depth in Africa. Following the announcement several reports stated Boko Haram member presence at AQIM training camps in the Sahel and that some of them even had received training from the jihadist group al Shabaab in Somalia.
Boko Haram is highly diverse: different areas and states host different cells or nodes of the group, and these operate in different ways, often with apparently little coordination or communication, resulting in confusing and contradictory statements and moves on the potential for peace. This intra-group diversity and factionalism are reason to be cautious about generalisations about the group, as various local manifestations may evolve, transform and act in unexpected ways.
ANSARU SPINS OFF
It is precisely this factionalism and which has lead to the second significant, emergent organised Islamist group, Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (also known as JAMBS or Ansaru), which has targeted western civilian targets and does appear to foster international links and areas of activity beyond Nigeria. Although Boko Haram's and Ansura split in 2012, their ties remain murky. in April 2013 a Boko Haram spokesman announced "They (Ansaru) are with us now. Whenever we hear of oppression, we do operations together." In November 2013, the U.S. Department of State announced the designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
Seond phase of attacks (see incident section below) Boko Haram perpetrated numerous killings, bomb and suicide bomb attacks, prison breaks, and kidnappings throughout the country. During 2012 the sect expanded its campaign of assaults and bombings from Borno, Bauchi, and Yobe states to Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, and Taraba states. The sect claimed responsibility for
- coordinated assaults on multiple targets in Kano on 20 January 2012;
- the suicide bombing of churches in Kaduna and Jos on Easter;
- the suicide bombings of the This Day newspaper offices in Abuja and Kaduna on April 26;
- the kidnapping and killing of British, Italian, and German hostages;
- the bombing of multiple churches in Bauchi, Plateau, and Kaduna states in June 2012; prison breaks in Lokoja and Abuja; and
- the killing of government, religious, and traditional figures.
Video: 2013 A video of the French family kidnapped in northern Cameroon, group claiming to be Boko Haram threatens to execute family. Feb 2013.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrjBbjGk8kI
Video: 2012 Propaganda video of sucide attack onThis Day newspaper offices in Abuja and Kaduna on April 26.
Video: 2013 New video reveals the tactical, equipment level and training of Boko Haram Nigeria terrorist group before the May 14 declaration of state of emergency against them. Boko Haram had targets which included, Obama, Nigeria's president Jonathan and Sagir Musa, JTF boss.