Image courtesy of AK Rockefeller via Flickr.
Sub-Saharan terrorism caused international outrage in April and May of 2014 when militant group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 300 school girls from a school in northern Nigeria.
As the world keeps its eye on ISIS, the African terrorist group Boko Haram had been expanding unchecked, having all but declared its own caliphate in Nigeria.
The perpetrating group is among the most notorious and deadly terrorist organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Here are 11 things you should know about Boko Haram:
Founded in 2002, the Islamic sect was formed by Muhammed Yusuf, aiming to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria and counter westernization.
They call themselves Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, or “people committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad.”
Boko Haram colloquially translates to “Western education is forbidden.”
After Yusuf was executed in 2009 along with 800 other BH members, attacks escalated under splintered leadership, including assassinations, suicide bombings, and breaking over 700 inmates out of prison in 2010.
In August 2011, the heavily armed group expanded to other parts of the country, including the capital Abuja, where an attack on the UN headquarters by car bomb killed nearly two dozen people.
Human Rights Watch estimates the group has killed over 5,000 people in the past five years.
Their deadliest attack include May 5, 2014, when as many as 336 people were killed in a bloody massacre in Ngala and Gamburu, Nigeria, and when 506 civilians were killed during six attacks in late May and early June.
It is estimated that BH members range in number from the hundreds to the few thousands, an army in part made up of poor religiously uneducated youth.
The group receives the majority of its funding from bank robberies, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom. Some suggest that Boko Haram’s most recent attacks indicate a growing influence of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
- Following video warnings by Boko Haram’s current leader Abubakar Shekau in 2012, kidnappings began in 2013 as retaliation for Nigerian government’s detainment of BH members’ wives and children.
Sixty-three of the women and children kidnapped escaped on July 4, 2014, having walked 31 miles to safety, the Guardian says, however hundreds of abductees are still missing.
Boko Haram extremists say the remaining girls were converted to Islam and married off, and have laughed off ceasefire deals with the government.
- The bloodshed in these last four years has been part of the group’s campaign to re-establish an Islamic caliphate in the religiously-mixed nation.
The Nigerian government has so far been unable to quell the insurgency.
Though the issue has become a global one, especially in regards to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and recent parallels with ISIS, some warn that US intervention could serve to undermine democracy in Nigeria.