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Boko Haram: from Islamist sect to armed insurgency

Boko Haram started out as an Islamist group railing against corrupt officials in northeast Nigeria but its decade-long insurgency has now devastated the region.


The campaign of violence has cost at least 27,000 lives, displaced some two million people and spawned an affiliate of the Islamic State group.

Boko Haram aims to create a hardline Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria.

The group's nickname loosely translates from the Hausa language as "Western education is forbidden".


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Its founder and spiritual leader Muhammad Yusuf pinned the blame for Nigeria's ills on Western values left by former colonial master Britain.

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Yusuf was killed in police custody in July 2009 after an uprising in Maiduguri that prompted a military assault. Some 800 people died in the action, and Boko Haram's mosque and headquarters were left in ruins.


But his successor, his right-hand man Abubakar Shekau, undertook a violent campaign of deadly attacks on schools, churches, mosques, state entities and security forces.

Some Boko Haram members are thought to have trained with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in northern Mali in 2012 and 2013.

Among the group's most notorious acts was the April 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the remote northern town of Chibok in Borno state.

July 28, 2019

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