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Boko Haram

The most serious human rights problems in Nigeria involve abuses committed by the militant sect People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophets Teachings and Jihad (Hausa: Jamaatu Ahlis Sunna Liddaawati Wal-Jihad)--better known by its Hausa name Boko Haram (Western education is anathema literally boko=books, haram=prohibited)--which conducted killings, bombings, kidnappings, and other attacks throughout the country, resulting in numerous deaths, injuries, and widespread destruction of property; abuses committed by the security services with impunity, including killings, beatings, arbitrary detention, and destruction of property; and societal violence, including ethnic, regional, and religious violence.

Boko Haram began in 2003, when about 200 university students and unemployed youth created a camp in Yobe State near the Niger border to withdraw from what they considered the corrupt, simple, and unjust Nigerian Government and their community was supposedly founded on Islamic law. The group was also known by the nickname the Nigerian Taliban. Violent clashes with Nigerian security forces destroyed the group several times, but its charismatic leader, Mohammed Yusuf, kept the group alive until his death while in police custody in July 2009.

Boko Haram is a Nigeria-based militant group with links to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that is responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years including targeted killings of civilians. Boko Haram has been blamed for thousands of deaths since it began attacking churches, schools, government offices, security forces, media houses, banks and markets in 2009. Security forces have been accused of ratcheting up the violence by killing suspects instead of arresting them and holding people indefinitely without charges.

Outrage is building about the seeming inability of the Nigerian government to mount a coherent response to Boko Harams audacious attacks. Nigerians are increasingly pointing to rampant corruption and incompetence among police and military units. Among rank-and-file officers, many feel that senior officers are purposely avoiding confronting Boko Haram militants head-on so they can skim off the increasing funding, and supplies, for their own purposes.

Contrary to the situation a few years ago, by 2014 Boko Haram forces were well armed, equiped with a variety of vehicles, and opearting in battalion sized units. Nigerian security forces are typically outnumbered and outgunned when confronting Boko Haram. By 2013 the Nigerian government realized that it required a counterinsurgency strategy rather than treating it simply as a criminal organization.

The group first came to widespread public attention on 26 July 2009, when militants from the sect attacked a police station in Bauchi state, triggering a wave of militant violence that spread to three other northern states. Nigerian authorities retaliated five days later by storming the group's sprawling Maiduguri headquarters, killing at least 100 people in the attack, half of them inside the sect's mosque. About 700 people were killed in days of violence last week in Maiduguri alone. There were suspicions that Mohammed Yusuf, the sect leader, had been executed after being captured. The military said it handed him over alive to police, while police insist he was killed in a gunbattle.

While police initially admitted killing Yusuf in custody, they subsequently claimed he died while trying to escape. Buji Fai, a former state government official suspected of funding Boko Haram, also reportedly died in custody along with Fagu. Later that year, then president YarAdua pledged to conduct a full investigation of the Boko Haram uprising, including the circumstances surrounding Yusufs death, but authorities had not publicly released the results of the investigation by years end.

Nigerian authorities had ignored dozens of warnings about the violent Islamist sect until it attacked police stations and government buildings. More than 50 Muslim leaders repeatedly called Nigeria's police, local authorities and state security to urge them to take action against Boko Haram sect militants but their pleas were ignored.

Boko Haram has been responsible for numerous attacks on local police stations and other religious groups in an effort to create a purified Islamist enclave in the northeast of the country. Nigerian authorities blame Boko Haram for thousands of deaths in bombings and shootings since mid-2009. Boko Haram had developed its own distinct brand of terror in Nigeria by carrying out acts of violence in crowds, seeking to inflict as much bloodshed and damage as possible.


After the July 2009 confrontations between Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces, in which several hundred persons died, many Boko Haram members had reportedly dispersed to neighboring countries to regroup, recruit, and train. The Nigerian military deployed a brigade of troops to the Borno state in July 2010 in anticipation of a violent retaliation by members of Boko Haram on the one-year anniversary of the death of their leader Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed by the police, but no attacks occurred on that date.

In 2010 al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM] publicly announced it would support Boko Haram with weapons and training. But the two groups have used different tactics. Operating in Mali, Niger and Algeria, AQIM is notorious for kidnappings - mostly of European workers and tourists - in alleged retaliation for foreign commercial exploitation of North Africa.

In April 2010 the Maiduguri High Court found that in 2009 police detained and subsequently killed Baba Fagu, the father-in-law of then Boko Haram leader Muhammad Yusuf, following violent clashes between police and militant members of Boko Haram in four northern states in 2009. The court ordered the federal and state governments to pay 100 million naira ($617,000) as compensation to Fagus family. The Borno State government challenged the Maiduguri High Courts decision and appealed the judgment.

On September 7, 2010, Boko Haram members stormed a prison in Bauchi State, freeing over 700 prisoners including about 100 sect members, and killed seven guards and bystanders. For the rest of 2010, Boko Haram members in Borno and Bauchi states attacked police, military, state officials, and anyone perceived as assisting the Nigerian government in efforts to bring Boko Haram members to justice. Approximately 50 individuals were killed and scores were wounded. Police and military personnel have since arrested over 150 Boko Haram members. On October 21, Boko Haram placed posters at key road intersections in northern Nigeria warning the local public against assisting police in apprehending members of the sect. Each poster bore the signature of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and warned that any Muslim that goes against the establishment of Sharia law will be attacked and killed. It has not been established whether AQIM and Boko Haram have operational links.

The group had typically gone after domestic targets, including Nigerian police and government institutions, in what is believed to be an effort to create a Sharia-ruled state. But that all changed with a major suicide bomb attack on a United Nations building in 2011 in the capital Abuja. The strike against the U.N. raised suspicion that Boko Haram, which has a stated Islamist agenda, is now operating on a larger scale, and strengthened the idea that it may have direct ties to al-Qaida. Over the years they changed their philosophy to focus on a more familiar jihadi world view that wants change in the country and sees itself as part of a global struggle. And they've made links with al-Shabab in Somalia and with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Algeria.

There are some elements who advocate what they call global jihad, to spread Islam from China to Chile, from Cape Town to Canada, which means they are going to assimilate the entire world. That's what you call the ideology of a section of al-Shabab, but it is not clear that this is shared with Boko Haram.

Nigerian security experts initially saw little role for the army in dealing with Boko Haram. Instead they preferred to focus on the underlying issues of Boko Harams discontent, a goal for which the military is not particularly well suited. Local police from the northern parts of the country were among the most under-funded and under-trained in the country, which already suffers from a lack of security capacity. The United States might address the fight against Boko Haram in the context of their Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCI), which is seeking to patrol the Sahara and neighboring Mauritania, Mali and Niger for radical elements.


Boko Haram perpetrated killings and bomb attacks throughout the country during 2011. The sect continued to mount regular assaults and bombings in Borno and Bauchi states. The sect claimed responsibility for the January 1 bombing of the Mogadishu Barracks in Abuja, the July 16 suicide bombing of the police headquarters in Abuja, and the August 26 suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja. By the end of the year, the government and Boko Haram had not engaged in dialogue.

The JTF was linked to numerous killings in Maiduguri Borno State after attacks by Boko Haram. On July 14, in one of the largest such incidents, the JTF allegedly killed 20 to 40 persons following a Boko Haram bombing.

In 2011 Boko Haram committed drive-by shootings and bombings; targeted killings of security personnel, religious leaders, and political figures; coordinated attacks on police stations and banks; and conducted suicide bombings during the year, which resulted in the death of hundreds of persons. For example, on June 16, a car bomb that detonated in the parking lot of the National Police Force Headquarters killed at least three persons and destroyed or damaged at least 50 vehicles. Boko Haram claimed responsibility.

On August 26, a suicide bomber attacked the UN House compound in Abuja, killing 24 persons and injuring more than 120 others, primarily Nigerian citizens. Boko Haram claimed responsibility. On November 4, Boko Haram launched a series of bomb attacks and coordinated assaults in Damaturu and Potiskum, Yobe State, and Maiduguri, Borno State. The bombs and subsequent gun battles with security forces resulted in the death of 100 to 200 police officers, Boko Haram fighters, and bystanders, as well as the destruction of the Yobe police headquarters and six churches.

The group claimed responsibility for several of the attacks, including a Christmas Day 2011 bombing of a church near Abuja that killed more than 30 people. On December 25, a car bomb that detonated at the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madella, outside of Abuja, killed at least 37 persons and wounded another 50 to 60. Boko Haram claimed responsibility.

The group wants wider implementation of sharia, or Islamic law, across Nigeria. It warned Christians in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria to leave the area. The group also called on Muslims living in southern Nigeria to return, saying it has evidence they will be attacked. In response to the violence, President Goodluck Jonathan recently declared a state of emergency in 15 areas. The president also deployed extra troops to the north, but attacks have continued.


Boko Haram perpetrated numerous killings, bomb and suicide bomb attacks, prison breaks, and kidnappings throughout the country during 2012, when 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 throughout the year. Government officials, civil society, and religious leaders on multiple occasions claimed to have initiated a dialogue with Boko Haram, but elements of the sect denied any involvement in such talks.

On 21 June 2012, the United States designated as terrorists 3 members of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. The State Department said it was adding Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi to its list of terrorists, meaning they would not be allowed to hold property or assets in the United States and that Americans would be prohibited from dealing with them. The State Department said Kambar and al-Barnawi had close links to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Shekau was Boko Haram's "most visible leader" in the push for an Islamic state in the north outside of Nigeria's federal constitution. The designation of the 3 individuals was just short of designating Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. The Obama administration also said it was working with the Nigerian government to address some of the social and economic problems underlying the violence in northern Nigeria and on how best to address the threat posed by Boko Haram.


Boko Haram said it was kidnapping local women and children in retaliation for the wives and children of their members who are being held by government and security officials. Sect leader Abubakar Shekau made the threat in the sect's video released 13 May 2013, which showed footage of a dozen unidentified women and children that he claims are hostages. Shekau said they will kidnap more. He said if they can't see their women and children, then no one will be allowed to enjoy his family. He said God allows them to consider all those they capture as slaves.

Boko Haram, has been expanding and intensifying its more than four-year-old insurgency, while other criminal and ethnic militias increasingly target security forces. On May 15, 2013 Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northern Nigerian states and ordered the immediate deployment of more troops, in response to a surge of violence the president says poses a "very serious threat" to Nigeria's territorial integrity.

After the Nigerian government announced that militant group Boko Haram had agreed to a cease-fire, on July 14, 2013 Abubakar Shekau, the man believed to be the groups leader, released a video denying the claim. While Shekau called for increased violence, possibly Boko Haram is fractured and some part of the group may have actually agreed to a cease-fire. The video released by Abubakar Shekau made considerable use of video editing tools, like a cartoon instant-camera printing a picture of Shekau, which spun around as it filled the screen. Shekau said the governments announcement of a truce agreement was a farce and there will be no peace until Western-type schools are replaced with Islamic schools. He also called for the end of constitutional law and democracy. He praised the recent massacre of students and teachers in Yobe State, where as many as 42 people died when gunmen opened fire and threw explosives in a secondary school. Most of the victims were children.

On 15 October 2013, Amnesty International released the report "Nigeria: Deaths of Hundreds of Boko Haram Suspects in Custody Requires Investigation". AI reported that according to senior army officers, more than 950 persons died in military custody in the first six months of the year alone and, on average, the army killed nearly five persons daily at military detention centers holding persons suspected of membership in Boko Haram. A large proportion of these deaths reportedly occurred in Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri, Borno State, and in Sector Alpha in Damaturu, Yobe State. Former detainees reportedly told AI that people died regularly of suffocation, starvation, lack of medical treatment, and extrajudicial executions. During an April 2013 visit, AI delegates discovered 20 emaciated corpses on the ground at the State Specialist Hospital mortuary in Maiduguri.

On 18 October 2013, the Associated Press (AP) published the report Nigerias Military Killing Thousands of Detainees. The report stated that according to records from the Sani Abacha Specialist Teaching Hospital in Maiduguri, thousands of detainees died in military custody in the governments crackdown on the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast. One hospital alone allegedly listed 3,335 bodies delivered by the military during the first six months of the year. According to the AP, in June the military delivered 1,795 bodies, making it the worst month in the records seen by the AP. The number of dead with Boko Haram connections was impossible to determine. News reports stated the government and military refused to comment.

On November 13, 2013 the US Department of State announced the designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, and as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224. The consequences of the these FTO and E.O. 13224 designations include a prohibition against knowingly providing, or attempting or conspiring to provide, material support or resources to, or engaging in transactions with, Boko Haram and Ansaru, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organizations that are in the United States, or come within the United States or the control of U.S. persons. The Department of State took these actions in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury.

The media, politicians, local and international NGOs, and other observers, frequently argued that the government had been unable to curb widespread abuses by the Boko Haram insurgency because it had not provided a policy response that addressed underlying grievances or had not mounted an effective security response, or both. Observers argued that the governments strategy had created a climate of impunity, whereby the civilian population was victimized by both Boko Haram and government forces.

During 2013 Boko Haram committed drive-by shootings and bombings; killed security personnel and civilians, including local officials, religious leaders, political figures, and the general public; bombed churches; coordinated attacks on police stations, military facilities, prisons, banks, and schools; and conducted suicide bombings, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of persons, including civilian deaths. The rate of violent deaths at the hands of Boko Haram increased during 2013 to record levels, surpassing the number of deaths during 2012. Estimates of the number of Boko Haram victims varied, but based on available data, casualties ranged from 338 to 497 from May to September 2012, and 717 to 925 for the same period during the year.


Amnesty International said 1,500 people were killed in the first three months of 2014 in an escalating armed conflict between Boko Haram insurgents and Nigerian security forces. Amnesty said March 30, 2014 that more than half the victims were civilians. Amnesty International calls the rising number of Boko Haram attacks truly shocking and the reaction of Nigerian security forces brutality. The rights group said both sides may have committed acts that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity." It called for an investigation by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and the UN Human Rights Council.

Boko Haram said it carried out the deadly bombing in the capital, Abuja, that killed at least 71 people on 14 April 2014. Nigerians' confidence in the government and the military's ability to deal with Boko Haram has reached a new low. The Nyanya bus station bombing was Boko Haram's first major attack in the capital in two years, something regional analysts say show its capabilities remain intact despite the almost year-long military offensive against the rebels. Most of Boko Haram's attacks take place in the far northeast. Analysts also say the size and sophistication of the blast suggest the militants have strengthened their connections abroad.

Also on 14 April 2014, Boko Haram abducted more than 300 schoolgirls from their dormitory in Chibok in Borno State in northern Nigeria. Some escaped, but the kidnappers held more than 270 girls. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened in a video to sell the girls on the market. The Nigerian government was widely criticized for not doing enough to find and free these girls. The 30 or so military personnel stationed in Chibok at the time of the abductions put up a fight, but there were too many well-armed extremists.

Hundreds of people were feared dead after militants attacked a town in northeastern Nigeria 06 May 2014, setting fire to homes and businesses and shooting residents as they tried to escape. Local officials say suspected Boko Haram militants stormed the town of Gamboru Ngala, on the border with Cameroon, and destroyed it during an attack that lasted several hours. Nigeria's Daily Trust newspaper cited residents as saying the attackers burned down more than 250 homes and the town's biggest market, along with a police station. So far in 2014, the group had been responsible for some 1,500 deaths.

It is a very well-funded organization where it has so many sources of income including in Nigeria and that whole region. It does get money from piracy, especially from the west coast of Africa. Drug trafficking helps. Boko Harams expenses are considerably smaller than for a regular army. Mostly the militants need money for weapons, which are increasingly available and cheap as unrest in other parts of Africa and the Middle East have created an arms trafficking highway. Bank robberies and stealing from the Nigerian military are other ways Boko Haram has paid its bills. But it is difficult to pinpoint details of the funding, just as it is hard to know what the group stands for, how big it is or who its leaders are.

The Nigerian Special Forces involved in the ongoing campaign against the Boko Haram insurgents recorded what security sources described as one the greatest breakthroughs in the campaign against terrorists in the North-East in March 2014. The Special Forces, comprising ground troops and the Air Force fighters, had demobilized one of the strongest fortresses of the Boko Haram sect. The soldiers, who carried out the operation, were shocked by the volume of arms and ammunition and hundreds of operational vehicles that they captured at the camp. A source put the number of vehicles captured from the insurgents at 700.

Nigerian officials denied a report that 15 officers, including 10 generals, have been court martialed for cooperating with Boko Haram militants. The Leadership newspaper reported the officers were found guilty of giving information and ammunition to the radical Islamist group, which is blamed for thousands of deaths over the past five years. On 04 June 2014, two officials, military spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade and government communications official Mike Olmeri, told VOA the report was "not true."

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