Established By: Mohammed Yusuf
Also Known As: Islamic State in West Africa, ISWA, Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP
Country Of Origin: Nigeria
Leaders: Abubakar Shekau, Abu Musab al-Barnawi
Key Members: Abubakar Shekau, Abu Musab al-Barnawi
Operational Area: Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon,
Number Of Members: 200–300
Involved In: Armed attacks, Suicide bomb attacks, Rapping, Kidnapping, Torturing civilians
- Abubakar Shekau Abubakar Shekau (also known by his alias Darul Tawheed), thought… [+]
- Muhammad Salem Bahroun Muhammad Salem Bahroun, also known as Al-Faar or “The Mouse”… [+]
- Mallam Ahmed Yakuba Mallam Ahmed Yakuba, a high profile Islamic State West Africa… [+]
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- Ten people dead as Boko Haram terrorists storm northeastern town in Nigeria At least 10 people were killed and eight wounded in… [+]
- UN facilities burnt and four people killed as Boko Haram terrorists attacked Borno community At least fours people including soldiers were killed on Saturday… [+]
- Eleven Boko Haram terrorists killed in northeastern Nigeria At least 11 members of the Boko Haram terrorist group… [+]
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Boko Haram, is jihadist group based in northeastern Nigeria, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. The group is led by Abubakar Shekau. Estimates of the group’s membership varies between 7,000 and 10,000 fighters. The group initially had links to al-Qaeda, but in 2014 it expressed support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant before pledging formal allegiance to it in March 2015.
After its founding in 2002, Boko Haram’s increasing radicalization led to a violent uprising in July 2009 in which its leader was executed. Its unexpected resurgence, following a mass prison break in September 2010, was accompanied by increasingly sophisticated attacks, initially against soft targets, and progressing in 2011 to include suicide bombings of police buildings and the United Nations office in Abuja.
The government’s establishment of a state of emergency at the beginning of 2012, extended in the following year to cover the entire northeast of Nigeria, resulted in a marked increase in both security force abuses and militant attacks. The Nigerian military proved ineffective in countering the insurgency, hampered by an entrenched culture of official corruption. Since mid-2014, the militants have been in control of swathes of territory in and around their home state of Borno, estimated at 50,000 square kilometres (20,000 sq mi) in January 2015, but have not captured the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri, where the group was originally based. Boko Haram killed more than 13,000 civilians between 2009 and 2015, including around 10,000 in 2014, in attacks occurring mainly in northeast, north-central and central Nigeria. Upwards of 1.5 million people have been displaced in the violence. Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by them have hampered efforts to counter the unrest.
Since 2009 Boko Haram have abducted more than 500 men, women and children, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014. 650,000 people had fled the conflict zone by August 2014. A big increase of 200,000 people since May, and by the end of the year 1.5 million had fled. After joint military operation with Nigerian Armed Forces, Chadian Armed Forces, Cameroonian Armed Forces, local vigilante groups, local hunters and local fishermen, Boko Haram lost its capital Gwoza and most of its occupied territories while it is still controlling southern parts of Borno State.
Boko Haram was founded as a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect advocating a strict form of Wahhabi law and developed into a Salafist-jihadi group in 2009, influenced by the Wahhabi movement. The movement is so diffuse that fighters associated with it do not necessarily follow Salafi doctrine. Boko Haram seeks the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria. It opposes the Westernization of Nigerian society and the concentration of the wealth of the country among members of a small political elite, mainly in the Christian south of the country. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy, but 60% of its population of 173 million (2013) live on less than $1 a day.
The sharia law imposed by local authorities, beginning with Zamfara in January 2000 and covering 12 northern states by late 2002, may have promoted links between Boko Haram and political leaders, but was considered by the group to have been corrupted. According to Borno Sufi Imam Sheik Fatahi, Yusuf was trained by Kano Salafi Izala Sheik Ja’afar Mahmud Adamu, who called him the “leader of young people”; the two split some time in 2002–4. They both preached in Maiduguri’s Indimi Mosque, which was attended by the deputy governor of Borno. Many of the group were reportedly inspired by Mohammed Marwa, known as Maitatsine (“He who curses others”), a self-proclaimed prophet (annabi, a Hausa word usually used only to describe the founder of Islam) born in Northern Cameroon who condemned the reading of books other than the Quran.
In a 2009 BBC interview, Yusuf, described by analysts as being well-educated, reaffirmed his opposition to Western education. He rejected the theory of evolution, said that rain is not “an evaporation caused by the sun”, and that the Earth is not a sphere. Mohammed Yusuf founded the sect that became known as Boko Haram in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of the north-eastern state of Borno. He established a religious complex and school that attracted poor Muslim families from across Nigeria and neighbouring countries. The center had the political goal of creating an Islamic state, and became a recruiting ground for jihadis. By denouncing the police and state corruption, Yusuf attracted followers from unemployed youths.
He is reported to have used the existing infrastructure in Borno of the Izala Society (Jama’at Izalatil Bidiawa Iqamatus Sunnah), a popular conservative Islamic sect, to recruit members, before breaking away to form his own faction. The Izala were originally welcomed into government, along with people sympathetic to Yusuf. Boko Haram conducted its operations more or less peacefully during the first seven years of its existence, withdrawing from society into remote north-eastern areas. The government repeatedly ignored warnings about the increasingly militant character of the organization. The Council of Ulama advised the government and the Nigerian Television Authority not to broadcast Yusuf’s preaching, but their warnings were ignored. Yusuf’s arrest elevated him to hero status. Borno’s Deputy Governor Alhaji Dibal has claimed that the al-Qaeda had ties with Boko Haram, but broke them when they decided that Yusuf was an unreliable person.
Leaders,structure and members:
Although Boko Haram is organized in a hierarchical structure with one overall leader, the group also operates as a clandestine cell system using a network structure. The boundaries of the organization are sometimes not clear. In many cases leadership is direct while in others it is more ‘inspirational’. Boko Haram operates as an insurgency/guerilla force, with units having between 300 and 500 fighters each. Estimates of the total number of fighters range between 500 and 9,000. Fighters are mainly drawn from the Kanuri ethnic group.
Between 2002 and 2009, Boko Haram was led by the organization founder, Islamist cleric Mohammed Yusuf. In 2009, after Yusuf was killed, leadership passed to Abubakar Shekau, who was Yusuf’s second-in command. Shekau has since married one of Mohammed Yusuf’s four wives. Abubakar Shekau was born in Yobe, Nigeria between 1965 and 1975 and is of Kanuri ethnicity. He speaks Arabic, Hausa, Fulani, and Kanuri. In addition to operational leadership, Shekau is also the religious leader of Boko Haram and regularly delivers sermons to his followers. Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram’s operational capabilities have grown.
Momodu Bama had been named as second in command after Abubakar Shekau took over as leader. Bama was killed in 2013. Another regional leader that was killed was known as Abba. Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche is suspected of organizing the April 2014 Abuja bombing and is wanted in connection.
Kidnappings, robbery and extortion:
Boko Haram gets funding from bank robberies and kidnapping ransoms. As an example, in early 2013 gunmen from Boko Haram kidnapped a family of seven French tourists on vacation in Cameroon. Two months later, the kidnappers released the hostages along with 16 others in exchange for a ransom of $3.15 million.Any funding they may have received in the past from al-Qaeda affiliates is insignificant compared to the estimated $1 million ransom for each wealthy Nigerian or foreigner kidnapped.
Cash is moved around by couriers, making it impossible to track, and communication is conducted face-to-face. Their mode of operation, which is thought to include paying local youths to track army movements, is such that little funding is required to carry out attacks. Equipment captured from fleeing soldiers keeps the group constantly well-supplied. The group also extorts local governments. A spokesman of Boko Haram claimed that Kano state governor Ibrahim Shekarau and Bauchi state governor Isa Yuguda had paid them monthly.
Donations from Islamist sympathizers:
After Boko Haram was founded, it received most of its funds from local donors who supported its goal of imposing Islamic law while ridding Nigeria of Western influences. In more recent times, Boko Haram has broadened its funding by drawing on foreign donors, and other ventures such as fake charity organizations. In February 2012, recently arrested officials revealed that while the organization initially relied on donations from members, its links with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb opened it up to funding from groups in Saudi Arabia and the UK.
Boko Haram cloaks its sources of finance through the use of a highly decentralized distribution network. The group employs an Islamic model of money transfer called hawala, which is based on an honor system and a global network of agents that makes the financing difficult to track. In the past, Nigerian officials have been criticized for being unable to trace much of the funding that Boko Haram has received.
Drug trafficking, smuggling and poaching:
Boko Haram has occasionally been connected in media reports with cocaine trafficking. According to some there appears to be a lack of evidence regarding this means of funding.. On the basis of just three case studies (Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho and Nigeria) the authors conclude that ‘state complicity’ in the African drug trade is ‘rare’, and the dominant paradigm is ‘repression’.
As a result, they radically understate the close involvement of political and military actors in drug trafficking – particularly in West African cocaine trafficking – and overlook the growing power of drug money in African electoral politics, local and traditional governance, and security. Boko Haram funds itself by trafficking drugs from drug cartels in Latin America. Boko Haram also engages in other forms of smuggling. According to a report from the Animal Protection Institute, the group has joined other criminal groups in Africa in the billion-dollar rhino and elephant poaching industry.
Ties to other designated terrorist groups:
Evidence going back to 2002 or earlier ties Boko Haram to al-Qaeda and its regional affiliates. Osama bin Laden himself sent $3 million in seed money to Nigeria to fund the spreading of his ideologies, and some of this money was used to help start the Boko Haram group. This information came from a Nigerian researcher’s interview with a member of Boko Haram “who was very knowledgeable about the origins of the group”. It also appears that bin Laden provided strategic direction to the Nigerians.
In 2011, correspondence between bin Laden and Boko Haram was found in bin Laden’s compound after the raid that killed him. In July 2009 AQIM issued a statement of support for Boko Haram and when the Nigerian government attacked the group, its members scattered to various al-Qaida operations. In July 2010, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau praised al-Qaeda and offered his condolences for the “martyrdom” of al-Qaeda’s two top Iraq leaders. “Do not think jihad is over”, Shekau said. “Rather, jihad has just begun. O America, die with your fury.” In November 2012, Shekau “expressed Boko Haram’s solidarity with al-Qaeda affiliates in Afghanistan, Iraq, North Africa, Somalia and Yemen”. In June 2012 the U.S. State Department designated Khalid al-Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kambar as terrorists that “have ties to Boko Haram and have close links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”, at the same time as it designated Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau as a terrorist.
In June 2013, when the “Rewards for Justice” program offered a $7 million reward for information leading to the capture of Shekau, similar rewards were offered for leaders in AQIM and its offshoots. Shekau is charged with “expressing solidarity with al-Qaeda and threatening the United States” and that “there are reported communications, training, and weapons links between Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which may strengthen Boko Haram’s capacity to conduct terrorist attacks.” These three organizations are all formal branches of al-Qaeda. Speaking by phone to reporters in in November 2012, group spokesman Abu Qaqa said: “We are together with al-Qaeda, they are promoting the cause of Islam, just as we are doing. Therefore they help us in our struggle and we help them, too.” However, al-Qaeda Central has never officially accepted Boko Haram as an affiliate, and after the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping, al-Qaeda did not praise Boko Haram, leading some analysts to conclude that the group was too violent for al-Qaeda.
The form and structure of al-Qaeda and its affiliates remains a matter of debate within the US Intelligence Community, and the exact current status of ties between Boko Haram and the al-Qaeda organization remains unclear. In July 2014, Shekau released a 16-minute video where he voiced support for ISIL’s head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda’s head Ayman al-Zawahiri and Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. In March 2015, Shekau formally pledged allegiance to ISIL, which was accepted by the group’s spokesman several days later.
Campaign of violence:
In 2009 police began an investigation into the group code-named ‘Operation Flush’. On 26 July, security forces arrested nine Boko Haram members and confiscated weapons and bomb-making equipment. Either this or a clash with police during a funeral procession led to revenge attacks on police and widespread rioting. A joint military task force operation was launched in response, and by 30 July more than 700 people had been killed, mostly Boko Haram members, and police stations, prisons, government offices, schools and churches had been destroyed.
Yusuf was arrested, and died in custody “while trying to escape”. As had been the case decades earlier in the wake of the 1980 Kano riots, the killing of the leader of an extremist group would have unintended consequences. He was succeeded by Abubakar Shekau, formerly his second-in-command. A classified cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Abuja in November 2009, available on WikiLeaks, is illuminating.
In September 2010, having regrouped under their new leader, Boko Haram broke 105 of its members out of prison in Maiduguri along with over 600 other prisoners and went on to launch attacks in several areas of northern Nigeria.
Under Shekau’s leadership, the group continuously improved its operational capabilities. After launching a string of IED attacks against soft targets, and its first vehicle-borne IED attack in June 2011, killing 6 at the Abuja police headquarters, in August Boko Haram bombed the UN headquarters in Abuja, the first time they had struck a Western target. A spokesman claiming responsibility for the attack, in which 11 UN staff members died as well as 12 others, with more than 100 injured, warned of future planned attacks on U.S. and Nigerian government interests. Speaking soon after the U.S. embassy’s announcement of the arrival in the country of the FBI, he went on to announce Boko Haram’s terms for negotiation: the release of all imprisoned members.
The increased sophistication of the group led observers to speculate that Boko Haram was affiliated with AQIM, which was active in Niger. Boko Haram has maintained a steady rate of attacks since 2011, striking a wide range of targets, multiple times per week. They have attacked politicians, religious leaders, security forces and civilian targets. The tactic of suicide bombing, used in the two attacks in the capital on the police and UN headquarters, was new to Nigeria. In Africa as a whole, it had only been used by al-Shabaab in Somalia and, to a lesser extent, AQIM.
Bombings following 2011 presidential inauguration:
Within hours of Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential inauguration in May 2011, Boko Haram carried out a series of bombings in Bauchi, Zaria and Abuja. The most successful of these was the attack on the army barracks in Bauchi. However, on 8 January 2012, the president would announce that Boko Haram had in reality infiltrated both the army and the police, as well as the executive, parliamentary and legislative branches of government. Boko Haram’s spokesman also claimed responsibility for the killing outside his home in Maiduguri of the politician Abba Anas Ibn Umar Garbai, the younger brother of the Shehu of Borno, who was the second most prominent Muslim in the country after the Sultan of Sokoto.
He added, “We are doing what we are doing to fight injustice, if they stop their satanic ways of doing things and the injustices, we would stop what we are doing.” This was one of several political and religious assassinations Boko Haram carried out that year, with the presumed intention of correcting injustices in the group’s home state of Borno. Meanwhile, the trail of massacres continued relentlessly, apparently leading the country towards civil war. By the end of 2011, these conflicting strategies led observers to question the group’s cohesion; comparisons were drawn with the diverse motivations of the militant factions of the oil-rich Niger Delta.
Adding to the confusion, in November, the State Security Service announced that four criminal syndicates were operating under the name ‘Boko Haram’. The common theme throughout the north-east was the targeting of police, who were regularly massacred at work or in drive-by shootings at their homes, either in revenge for the killing of Yusuf, or as representatives of the state apparatus, or for no particular reason. Five officers were arrested for Yusuf’s murder, which had no noticeable effect on the level of unrest. Opportunities for criminal enterprise flourished. Hundreds of police were dead and more than 60 police stations had been attacked by mid-2012.
The government’s response to this self-reinforcing trend towards insecurity was to invest heavily in security equipment, spending $5.5 billion, 20 percent of their overall budget, on bomb detection units, communications and transport; and $470 million on a Chinese CCTV system for Abuja, which has failed in its purpose of detecting or deterring acts of terror. The election defeat of former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari increased religious political tension, as the presidency was expected to change hands to a northern, Muslim candidate. Sectarian riots engulfed the twelve northern states of the country during the three days following the election, leaving more than 800 dead and 65,000 displaced.
The subsequent campaign of violence by Boko Haram culminated in a string of bombings across the country on Christmas Day. In the outskirts of Abuja, 37 died in a church that had its roof blown off. “Cars were in flames and bodies littered everywhere”, one resident commented, words repeated in nearly all press reports about the aftermath of the bombings. Similar Christmas events had occurred in previous years. Jonathan declared a state of emergency on New Year’s Eve in local government areas of Jos, Borno, Yobe and Niger, and closed the international border in the north-east.
State of emergency:
Boko Haram carried out 115 attacks in 2011, killing 550. The state of emergency would usher in an intensification of violence. The opening three weeks of 2012 accounted for more than half of the death total of the preceding year. Two days after the state of emergency was declared, Boko Haram released an ultimatum to southern Nigerians living in the north, giving them three days to leave. Three days later they began a series of mostly small-scale attacks on Christians and members of the Igbo ethnic group, causing hundreds to flee. In Kano, on 20 January, they carried out by far their most deadly action yet, an assault on police buildings, killing 190. One of the victims was a TV reporter. The attacks included a combined use of car bombs, suicide bombers and IEDs, supported by uniformed gunmen.
Denouncements of violence and human rights abuses:
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch published reports in 2012 that were widely quoted by government agencies and the media, based on research conducted over the course of the conflict in the worst affected areas of the country. The NGOs were critical of both security forces and Boko Haram. HRW stated “Boko Haram should immediately cease all attacks, and threats of attacks, that cause loss of life, injury, and destruction of property. The Nigerian government should take urgent measures to address the human rights abuses that have helped fuel the violent militancy.” Serious human rights problems included extrajudicial killings by security forces, including summary executions; security force torture, rape, and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of prisoners, detainees, and criminal suspects; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; prolonged pretrial detention; denial of fair public trial; executive influence on the judiciary; infringements on citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and movement.
On 9 October witnesses in Maiduguri claimed members of the JTF [Joint Task Force] “Restore Order”, [a vigilante group] based in Maiduguri, went on a killing spree after a suspected Boko Haram bomb killed an officer. Media reported the JTF killed 20 to 45 civilians and razed 50 to 100 houses in the neighborhood. The JTF commander in Maiduguri denied the allegations. On 2 November, witnesses claimed the JTF shot and killed up to 40 people during raids in Maiduguri. The army claimed it dismissed some officers from the military as a result of alleged abuses committed in Maiduguri, but there were no known formal prosecutions in Maiduguri by year’s end.
Credible reports also indicated … uniformed military personnel and paramilitary mobile police carried out summary executions, assaults, torture, and other abuses throughout Bauchi, Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, and Yobe states … The national police, army, and other security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects, as well as to disperse protesters. Authorities generally did not hold police accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. Security forces generally operated with impunity in the illegal apprehension, detention, and sometimes extrajudicial execution of criminal suspects. The reports of state or federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths remained unpublished.
There were no new developments in the case of five police officers accused of executing Muhammad Yusuf in 2009 at a state police headquarters. In July 2011 authorities arraigned five police officers in the federal high court in Abuja for the murder of Yusuf. The court granted bail to four of the officers, while one remained in custody. Police use of excessive force, including use of live ammunition, to disperse demonstrators resulted in numerous killings during the year. For example, although the January fuel subsidy demonstrations generally remained peaceful, security forces reportedly fired on protesters in various states across the country during those demonstrations, resulting in 10 to 15 deaths and an unknown number of wounded.
Despite some improvements resulting from the closure of police checkpoints in many parts of the country, states with an increased security presence due to the activities of Boko Haram experienced a rise in violence and lethal force at police and military roadblocks. Continuing abductions of civilians by criminal groups occurred in the Niger Delta and Southeast … Police and other security forces were often implicated in the kidnapping schemes.Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices and provide for punishment of such abuses, torture is not criminalized, and security service personnel, including police, military, and State Security Service (SSS) officers, regularly tortured, beat, and abused demonstrators, criminal suspects, detainees, and convicted prisoners. Police mistreated civilians to extort money. The law prohibits the introduction into trials of evidence and confessions obtained through torture; however, police often used torture to extract confessions.
Nigeria’s Borno State, where Boko Haram is based, adjoins Lake Chad, as do Niger, Cameroon and the country of Chad. The conflict, and refugees, spilled over the national borders to involve all four countries. Since early 2013, Boko Haram have increasingly operated in Northern Cameroon, and have been involved in skirmishes along the borders of Chad and Niger. They have been linked to a number of kidnappings, often reportedly in association with the splinter group Ansaru, drawing them a higher level of international attention.
The U.S. Bureau of Counterterrorism provides the following summary of Boko Haram’s 2013 foreign operations:
-In February 2013, Boko Haram was responsible for kidnapping seven French tourists in the far north of Cameroon. In November 2013, Boko Haram members kidnapped a French priest in Cameroon.
-In December 2013, Boko Haram gunmen reportedly attacked civilians in several areas of northern Cameroon.
-Security forces from Chad and Niger also reportedly partook in skirmishes against suspected Boko Haram members along Nigeria’s borders.
-In 2013, the group also kidnapped eight French citizens in northern Cameroon and obtained ransom payments for their release.
Boko Haram has often managed to evade the Nigerian army by retreating into the hills around the border with Cameroon, whose army is apparently unwilling to confront them. Nigeria, Chad and Niger had formed a Multinational Joint Task Force in 1998. In February 2012, Cameroon signed an agreement with Nigeria to establish a Joint Trans-Border Security Committee, which was inaugurated in November 2013, when Cameroon announced plans to conduct “coordinated but separate” border patrols in 2014. It convened again in July 2014 to further improve cooperation between the two countries. In late 2013 Amnesty International received ‘credible’ information that over 950 inmates had died in custody, mostly in detention centres in Maiduguri and Damaturu, within the first half of the year.
Official state corruption was also documented in December 2013 by the UK Home Office:
The NPF [Nigeria Police Force], SSS, and military report to civilian authorities; however, these security services periodically act outside of civilian control. The government lack effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The NPF remain susceptible to corruption, commit human rights abuses, and generally operate with impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, and sometimes execution of criminal suspects. The SSS also commit human rights abuses, particularly in restricting freedom of speech and press. In some cases private citizens or the government brought charges against perpetrators of human rights abuses in these units. However, most cases lingered in court or went unresolved after an initial investigation.
The state of emergency was extended in May 2013 to cover the whole of the three north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, raising tensions in the region. In the 12 months following the announcement, 250,000 fled the three states, followed by a further 180,000 between May and August 2014. A further 210,000 fled from bordering states, bringing the total displaced by the conflict to 650,000. Many thousands left the country. An August 2014 AI video showed army and allied militia executing people, including by slitting their throats, and dumping their bodies in mass graves.
Kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in April 2014:
In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from Chibok, Borno. More than 50 of them soon escaped, but the remainder have not been released. Instead, Shekau, who has a reward of $7 million offered by the United States Department of State since June 2013 for information leading to his capture, announced his intention of selling them into slavery. The incident brought Boko Haram extended global media attention, much of it focused on the pronouncements of the First Lady of the United States. Faced with outspoken condemnation for his perceived incompetence, and detailed accusations from Amnesty International of state collusion, President Jonathan responded by hiring a Washington PR firm. Parents of the missing schoolgirls and those who had escaped were kept waiting until July to meet with the president, which caused them concern.
In October, the government announced the girls’ imminent release, but the information proved unreliable. The announcement to the media of a peace agreement and the imminent release of all the missing girls was followed days later by a video message in which Shekau stated that no such meeting had taken place and that the girls had been “married off”. The announcement to the media, unaccompanied by any evidence of the reality of the agreement, was thought by analysts to have been a political ploy by the president to raise his popularity before his confirmation of his candidacy in the 2015 general election. Earlier in the year, the girls’ plight had featured on “#BringBackOurGirls” political campaign posters in the streets of the capital, which the president denied knowledge of and soon took down after news of criticism surfaced. These posters, which were interpreted, to the dismay of campaigners for the girls’ recapture, as being designed to benefit from the fame of the kidnapping, had also been part of Jonathan’s “pre-presidential campaign”. In September, “#BringBackGoodluck2015” campaign posters again drew criticism.The official announcement of the president’s candidacy was made before cheering crowds in Abuja on 11 November.
Kidnapping of the Cameroon vice-president’s wife:
In 2014 Boko Haram continued to increase its presence in northern Cameroon. On 16 May, ten Chinese workers were abducted in a raid on a construction company camp in Waza, near the Nigerian border. Vehicles and explosives were also taken in the raid, and one Cameroon soldier was killed. Cameroon’s antiterrorist Rapid Intervention Battalion attempted to intervene but were vastly outnumbered. In July, the vice-president’s home village was attacked by around 200 militants; his wife was kidnapped, along with the Sultan of Kolofata and his family.
At least 15 people, including soldiers and police, were killed in the raid. The vice-president’s wife was subsequently released in October, along with 26 others including the ten Chinese construction workers who had been captured in May; authorities made no comment about any ransom, which the Cameroon government had previously claimed it never pays. In a separate attack, nine bus passengers and a soldier were shot dead and the son of a local chief was kidnapped. Hundreds of local youths are suspected to have been recruited. In August, the remote Nigerian border town of Gwoza was overrun and held by the group. In response to the increased militant activity, the Cameroonian president sacked two senior military officers and sent his army chief with 1000 reinforcements to the northern border region.
Between May and July 2014, 8,000 Nigerian refugees arrived in the country, up to 25 percent suffering from acute malnutrition. Cameroon, which ranked 150 out of 186 on the 2012 UNDP HDI, hosted, as of August 2014, 107,000 refugees fleeing unrest in the CAR, a number that was expected to increase to 180,000 by the end of the year. A further 11,000 Nigerian refugees crossed the border into Cameroon and Chad during August.
Announcing an Islamic caliphate:
The attack on Gwoza signalled a change in strategy for Boko Haram, as the group continued to capture territory in north-eastern and eastern areas of Borno, as well as in Adamawa and Yobe. Attacks across the border were repelled by the Cameroon military. The territorial gains were officially denied by the Nigerian military. In a video obtained by the news agency AFP on 24 August 2014, Shekau announced that Gwoza was now part of an Islamic caliphate. The town of Bama, 70 kilometres (45 mi) from the state capital Maiduguri, was reported to have been captured at the beginning of September, resulting in thousands of residents fleeing to Maiduguri, even as residents there were themselves attempting to flee.
The military continued to deny Boko Haram’s territorial gains, which were, however, confirmed by local vigilantes who had managed to escape. The militants were reportedly killing men and teenage boys in the town of over 250,000 inhabitants. Soldiers refused orders to advance on the occupied town; hundreds fled across the border into Cameroon, but were promptly repatriated. Fifty-four deserters were later sentenced to death by firing squad. Within 48 hours, however, the same publications were reporting that Boko Haram attacks had nevertheless continued unabated. It was reported that factionalisation would make such a deal particularly difficult to achieve.
On 29 October, Mubi, a town of 200,000 in Adamawa, fell to the militants, further undermining confidence in the peace talks. Thousands fled south to Adamawa’s capital city, Yola. Amid media speculation that the ceasefire announcement had been part of President Jonathan’s re-election campaign, a video statement released by Boko Haram through the normal communication channels via AFP on 31 October stated that no negotiations had in fact taken place. Mubi was said to have been recaptured by the army on 13 November. On the same day, Boko Haram seized Chibok; two days later, the army recaptured the largely deserted town. As of 16 November it was estimated that more than twenty towns and villages had been taken control of by the militants. On 28 November, 120 died in an attack at the central mosque in Kano during Friday prayers. There were 27 Boko Haram attacks during the month of November, killing at least 786.
On 3 December, it was reported that several towns in North Adamawa had been recovered by the Nigerian military with the help of local vigilantes. Bala Nggilari, the governor of Adamawa state, said that the military were aiming to recruit 4,000 vigilantes. On 13 December, Boko Haram attacked the village of Gumsuri in Borno, killing over 30, and kidnapping over 100 women and children.
Attacks in Cameroon:
In the second half of December, the focus of activity switched to the Far North Region of Cameroon, beginning on the morning of 17 December when an army convoy was attacked with an IED and ambushed by hundreds of militants near the border town of Amchide, 60 kilometres (40 mi) north of the state capital Maroua. One soldier was confirmed dead, and an estimated 116 militants were killed in the attack, which was followed by another attack overnight with unknown casualties. On 22 December the Rapid Intervention Battalion followed up with an attack on a Boko Haram training camp near Guirdivig, arresting 45 militants and seizing 84 children aged 7–15 who were undergoing training, according to a statement from Cameroon’s Ministry of Defense.
The militants fled in pick-up trucks carrying an unknown number of their dead; no information on army casualties was released. On 27–28 December five villages were simultaneously attacked, and for the first time the Cameroon military launched air attacks when Boko Haram briefly occupied an army camp. Casualty figures were not released. According to Information Minister Issa Tchiroma, “Units of the group attacked Makari, Amchide, Limani and Achigachia in a change of strategy which consists of distracting Cameroonian troops on different fronts, making them more vulnerable in the face of the mobility and unpredictability of their attacks.”
On 3 January 2015, Boko Haram again attacked Baga, seizing it and the military base used by a multinational force set up to fight them. The town was burned and the people massacred. Although the death toll of the massacre was earlier estimated by local officials to be upwards of 2000, the Defence Ministry has now dismissed these claims as “speculation and conjecture” and “exaggerated”. They estimate the death toll to be closer to 150 instead. It should be noted, however, that this is an estimation and that Nigeria has often been accused of underestimating casualty figures in an effort to downplay the threat of Boko Haram. Some residents escaped to nearby Chad.
On 12 January Boko Haram attacked a Cameroon military base in Kolofata. Government forces report killing 143 militants, while one Cameroon soldier was killed. On 18 January Boko Haram raided two Tourou Cameroon area villages, torching houses, killing some residents and kidnapping between 60 and 80 people including an estimated 50 young children between the ages of 10 and 15.
Counter-insurgency against Boko Haram:
Starting in late January 2015, a coalition of military forces from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger began a counter-insurgency campaign against Boko Haram. On 4 February, the Chad Army killed over 200 Boko Haram militants. Soon afterwards, Boko Haram launched an attack on the Cameroonian town of Fotokol, killing 81 civilians, 13 Chadian soldiers and 6 Cameroonian soldiers.
On 7 March 2015, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant via an audio message posted on the organisation’s Twitter account. Nigerian army spokesperson Sami Usman Kukasheka said the pledge was a sign of weakness and that Shekau was like a “drowning man”. On 12 March 2015, ISIL’s spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani released an audiotape in which he welcomed the pledge of allegiance, and described it as an expansion of the group’s caliphate to West Africa.
On 24 March 2015, residents of Damasak, Nigeria said that Boko Haram had taken more than 400 women and children from the town as they fled from coalition forces. On March 27, the Nigerian army captured Gwoza, which was believed to be the location of Boko Haram headquarters. On election day, 28 March 2015, Boko Haram extremists killed 41 people, including a legislator, to discourage hundreds from voting.
In March 2015, Boko Haram lost control of the Northern Nigerian towns of Bama and Gwoza (believed to be their headquarters) to the Nigerian army. The Nigerian authorities said that they had taken back 11 of the 14 districts previously controlled by Boko Harem. In April, four Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest were overrun by the Nigerian military who freed nearly 300 females. Boko Haram forces were believed to have retreated to the Mandara Mountains, along the Nigeria–Cameroon border.