Brutal history of Boko Haram

For many years, world's deadliest militant group Boko Haram has stormed Nigeria and Lake Chad region and has killed thousands upon thousands of people

Photo by: TRT WORLD
Photo by: TRT WORLD

Updated Apr 14, 2016

While the DAESH terrorist group storms Turkey and Europe with its deadly terrorist attacks which have already taken place in Ankara, Paris and Brussels, DAESH-affiliated militant group Boko Haram, continues to devastate the lives of millions of people in northern Nigeria and the whole of the Lake Chad region, as it has done for many years.

Since 2009, thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced due to Boko Haram’s terrorist attacks in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria.

But why?

Cleric Mohammed Yusuf founded Boko Haram in northeastern Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, in 2002. He established a religious complex with an Islamic school that attracted many students from poor families from all over Nigeria, and also other neighbouring countries.

However, Boko Haram's purpose for establishing such a complex was not only to educate students. As the complex continued to receive more students, it began to be used as a means of recruiting militants to carry out terrorist attacks. 

The militant group Jama atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda a Waati Wal Jihad, better known as Boko Haram -which is literally translated to “Western education is forbidden”-, opposes what they regard as ‘secular authority’ and ‘western style education’, which is taught in public schools.

Due to this, numerous school buildings were burnt and seriously damaged while many teachers and students were targeted in attacks on schools in northeastern Nigeria. As a result, education in northeastern Nigeria has been significantly affected.

In 2009, Yusuf and his militants were killed in a government crackdown in Maiduguri just after the group carried out massive attacks on a police station and government buildings.

Although the Nigerian government declared that Boko Haram was made ineffective, the group established themselves again under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau and stepped up their insurgency.

In 2011, Boko Haram started to launch attacks outside of northeastern Nigeria. That December, it launched a suicide attack on the United Nations regional headquarters in the capital Abuja.

As concerns grew over the escalating violence, Nigeria’s then-president Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in May 2013 in the three northern states where Boko Haram was active - Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

In April 2014, Boko Haram drew global condemnation by kidnapping nearly 276 schoolgirls from Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in the Chibok town of the Borno state.

As the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign put pressure on the Nigerian government, the schoolgirls are yet to be found.

The militant group then changed its tactics. Instead of capturing and holding territories under its control, they started to launch hit-and-run assaults and suicide attacks.

Since June 2014, Boko Haram has used at least 105 women and girls as suicide bombers, targeting mosques and crowded bazaars, according to the Long War Journal.

After a couple of months, the militant group’s leader Shekau declared a self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ in areas Boko Haram controls in August 2014.

"We are in an Islamic caliphate," said Mr Shekau, flanked by masked fighters and carrying a machine gun. "We have nothing to do with Nigeria. We don't believe in this name."

Meanwhile, the most brutal massacre perpetrated by Boko Haram that took place in the northeastern town of Baga, which is home to 300,000 residents, left at least 2,000 dead.

After the horrific massacre, Baga was turned into a ghost town. The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was re-activated by Lake Chad countries –Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin- in order to stop Boko Haram attacks that had spread to the whole region. The MNJTF coalition pushed Boko Haram out of territories the group had previously captured.

But Boko Haram in turn pledged allegiance to the DAESH terrorist group in March 2015.

However analysts say, the death toll of Boko Haram attacks could be higher than records. They have frequently claimed that at least 17,000 have been killed by Boko Haram attacks while approximately 2.6 million people displaced.

But will Boko Haram really be defeated?

Apart from Boko Haram threats, Nigeria faces many economic, political and cultural challenges. During the historic general election in which Muhammadu Buhari won against Goodluck Jonathan in March 2015, cultural and religious divisions became outspokenly apparent.

These factors, as well as chronic poverty, corruption scandals and impunity also allowed Boko Haram to grow and carry out such horrific attacks. Moreover, many well-known Nigerian political figures who were involved in corruption scandals, have been accused of giving financial help to Boko Haram.

Analysts say that the Nigerian government should try to reduce poverty and build a strong education system in northeastern Nigeria in order to try to defeat Boko Haram.

Author: Mucahid Durmaz