Boko Haram: The rise of a violent terrorist group in Nigeria



By: Novpreet Bajwa

The first time that most people probably heard about the terrorist organization Boko Haram was when it kidnapped between 250-300 school girls in Nigeria, causing an international outrage with people starting a social media campaign that called for their return. But the organization has been active long before it committed this infamous act.

The group’s official name is “Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da’awati wal-Jihad” which translates to “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teaching and Jihad.” The colloquial name, Boko Haram, was dubbed to describe the group’s hatred for western influence, with the name being loosely translated to “Western education is forbidden.”  The ideology that the group is founded upon calls for Nigeria to forbid any western influence, overthrow the government and replacing it with the Islamic law and denying any education to girls and women . These goals are formed upon the assumption that Nigerian government leaders are influenced by western ideals and are not true to their Islamic faith. Many members of the group believe they are ordained by Allah to carry out these goals by any means necessary.

Boko Haram was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002 in Northern Nigeria, an area that is heavily populated with Muslims. In the beginning, the attacks the group carried out were not that successful, perhaps because the attacks were against the Nigerian security forces. It wasn’t until after the founder of the organization was executed by the Nigerian forces in 2009 that it became violently active and began to carry out series of attacks against civilians. The group resurfaced in 2010 when it released a video in which its new leader, Abubakar Shekau, threatens Nigeria with future violent attacks.

In the next few years, Boko Haram executed many suicide bombings, assassinations around the country. In 2011, the group targeted the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, and detonated a car-bomb that killed 23 people and wounded 81.  In that same year, it also freed about 700 prisoners in Bauchi. In January 2012, the group killed at least 185 people through bombing.  In December 2013, the death toll was estimated to be 1,200 in that year alone. In 2014, the deaths rose to another 2,000 with the group executing about 95 attacks.  Of course, in that same year, it abducted many school girls, stating that these girls should not be getting education. The group also stated these girls will be sold. Igniting an international outrage, this act stimulated a world-wide campaign for the girls’ return. But despite the many efforts invested in this campaign, only a few girls escaped with the others still missing.  These terrorist activities have continued into the New Year with Boko Haram destroying about 3,700 homes and killing about 2,000 people in Northeastern Nigeria on Jan 3.

The funding for the all the attacks mentioned above is acquired through robbing, extortions and donations. The group has been linked to the Algerian terrorist group, Al-Qa’ida in the Land of Islamic Maghreb (AQLIM) which has been suspected of giving funds to Boko Haram along with training its members and providing supplies.

The overall havoc caused by Boko Haram has finally prompted many countries to step in and eliminate the group.  The African Union (AU) which comprises of many African leaders will meet up this coming week to discuss taking effective measures to erase this militant organization. The leaders’ concern rose out of the fact that Boko Haram’s attacks are threatening Nigeria’s neighbors. Though this meeting might result into forming effective plans, the AU still has a long journey to take before it can completely eradicate the extreme violence Boko Haram has caused.

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