Boko Haram

Boko Haram is a Nigeria-based militant group with links to al-Qa’ida 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.

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 People’s Rights and the UN Human Rights Council.

Radical Islamist sect, 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 group’s 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 government’s 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.

The most serious human rights problems in Nigeria involve abuses committed by the militant sect “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” (Hausa: Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati 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.

The militant Boko Haram group in Nigeria, also known as the “Nigerian Taliban” or Jama’at Hijra wal Takfir, 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, which means “Western education is prohibited” [Haram means forbidden and Boko is corruption of the word book] 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.

The group has claimed responsibility for several of the attacks, including a Christmas Day 2011 bombing of a church near Abuja that killed more than 30 people. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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-Qa‘ida 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 has 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've 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 see little role for the army in dealing with Boko Haram. Instead they prefer to focus on the underlying issues of Boko Haram’s discontent, a goal for which the military is not particularly well suited. Local police from the northern parts of the country are 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.

The militant sect 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 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 says 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 shows 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.

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.

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 the piracy, especially from the west coast of Africa. Drug trafficking helps. Boko Haram’s 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.

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