Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 - Foreign Terrorist Organizations: Boko Haram

aka Nigerian Taliban; Jama'atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda'Awati Wal Jihad; Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad; People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad; Sunni Group for Preaching and Jihad

Description: Nigeria-based Boko Haram (BH) was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on November 14, 2013. The group is responsible for numerous attacks in northern and northeastern Nigeria, and the Lake Chad Basin in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger that have killed thousands of people since 2009.

In March 2015, BH pledged allegiance to ISIS in an audiotape message. ISIS accepted the group's pledge and the group began calling itself ISIS-West Africa. In August 2016, ISIS announced that Abu Musab al-Barnawi was to replace Abubakar Shekau as the new leader of the group. Infighting then led the group to split. Shekau maintains a group of followers and affiliates concentrated primarily in the Sambisa Forest; this faction is known as Boko Haram.

The Governments of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria routinely call both groups Boko Haram, with some differentiation on the "Shekau faction" versus the "al-Barnawi faction."

Activities: BH was responsible for the August 26, 2011 bomb attack on the UN building in Abuja that killed at least 21 people and wounded dozens more. The group was also responsible for a series of bomb attacks in 2012 in Kano, Nigeria.

Boko Haram crosses porous Lake Chad region borders to target civilians and military personnel in northeast Nigeria, the Far North Region of Cameroon, and parts of Chad and Niger. The group continued to evade pressure from Lake Chad country forces, including through the regional Multinational Joint Task Force. In 2013, the group kidnapped over a dozen French citizens in northern Cameroon for ransom.

In 2014, BH killed approximately 5,000 Nigerian civilians in various attacks. The kidnapping of 276 female students from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, brought global attention to Boko Haram's activities and highlighted its deliberate targeting of non-combatants, including children. The group continued to abduct women and girls in the northern region of Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, some of whom it later subjected to domestic servitude, other forms of forced labor, and sexual servitude, including through forced marriages to its members. For further information, refer to the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Between January 3 and 7, 2015, BH carried out a massacre in Baga, Borno State; reported casualties ranged from 150 to more than 2,000 killed, injured, or disappeared. The January 2015 attacks and other BH operations in surrounding smaller villages in 2015 displaced an estimated 35,000 people and allowed BH to gain control of Borno State. On April 6, BH militants disguised as Islamic preachers killed at least 24 people and wounded several others in an attack near a mosque in Borno State; the attackers gathered people in the village of Kwajafa, offering to preach Islam, then opened fire.

BH continued its operational tempo through 2015 and into early 2016 under the name ISIS-West Africa, with January operations in Cameroon that killed 16 people. In February 2016, the group resumed attacks in Nigeria, killing 30 people on February 13 in a spate of attacks in Borno State that included forcing worshipers into a mosque and killing them. In October, BH released 21 Chibok schoolgirls to Nigerian authorities in exchange for the release of selected BH members; it was the first mass release of Chibok hostages since the 2014 abductions.

In January 2017, around 100 BH fighters attacked a refugee camp in Nigeria, killing over 150 people. BH continued its attacks, mostly concentrated in and around Borno state, throughout early 2017, razing villages, abducting women and girls, and killing Nigerian security forces. In May, BH members released an additional 82 Chibok schoolgirls to the Nigerian government.

Between April and September, BH militants killed over 400 people in Nigeria and Cameroon, and the group increasingly forced abducted women and girls to carry out suicide attacks on civilians. Since 2009, BH has killed approximately 20,000 people and displaced over two million others.

Strength: Membership is estimated to be several thousand fighters.

Location/Area of Operation: BH operates in northeastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, southeast Niger, and areas of Chad along the Nigerian border.

Funding and External Aid: BH largely self-finances through criminal activities such as looting, extortion, kidnapping-for-ransom, and bank robberies.


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