Boko Haram was formed on the basis of the group
"The Followers of the teachings of the Prophet and migrants," or "Young Muslims," founded in 1995 in Maiduguri (the administrative centre of Borno State in north-eastern Nigeria) by Abubakar Lavan as a purely propaganda-based Salafi movement. This area of Sunni Islam had taken root in the north of the country back in the 1970s–1980s. The vast majority of Nigerian Muslims are Sunnis. When Mohammed Yusuf took control of the movement in 2002 it officially
became known as the "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad," but more commonly known as Boko Haram, which in Hausa
means "Western education is forbidden." Mohammed Yusuf actively urged his supporters to fight for the eradication of secular education and the Western way of life, overthrow the government and create and Islamic state similar to that of Afghanistan when the Taliban was in control of the country. Nevertheless, many experts believe
that he was not an out-and-out jihadist.
Following the death
of Mohammed Yusuf in 2009 at the hands of the police, as well as that of more than one thousand members of the group and the arrest of several hundred more, Boko Haram, under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, became an active terrorist organization spanning a number of countries. The group changed its tactics, with coordinated multiple terrorist attacks becoming its trademark and suicide bombers being used with increasing frequency. Its list of targets and territorial coverage expanded. Boko Haram's fighters went from carrying out
attacks on police stations, army barracks, military bases, Christian churches and communities, bombing markets and raiding schools and colleges, often killing and kidnapping students to destroying entire villages, storming and capturing major cities and towns in north-western states and attacking the capital
of Borno State Maiduguri. The victims of the terror attacks were mostly civilians – the terrorists did not discriminate by religion or ethnicity, killing women and children alike, Christian and Muslim elders, and religious leaders.
occurred within the group in January 2012, when the new Islamic extremist organization called "Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Lands" (better known as Ansaru) rejected Shekau's leadership. While the aims of the two groups were essentially the same, the active rejection of Ansaru members led to mass killings of civilians, mostly Muslims and Muslim leaders. In June 2013, the Nigerian federal authorities declared
Ansaru a terrorist organization and banned its activities.
Boko Haram's terrorist activities have grown with each passing year. The kidnapping of 270 schoolgirls
in Borno State on April 14, 2014 was covered by news outlets across the globe, with the Nigerian authorities coming under fierce criticism for their inability to find and free the girls. This forced the Nigerian government to recognize
Boko Haram as a serious threat to the country. On May 23, 2014, at the request of Nigeria, Boko Haram was added to the United Nations Security Council list
of designated terrorist groups. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace
, in 2014, the group overtook ISIL in terms of the number of people it had killed (6,644 versus 6,073), with 77 per cent of their victims being private citizens. It also came in second behind Iraq in the number of people kidnapped (1,298). Since 2009, more than 20,000 people are believed to have been killed at the hands of Boko Haram fighters; 2.5 million people in the north-east of the country have been displaced from their homes; and 200,000 have been made refugees, fleeing to Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Boko Haram has become
the most deadly terrorist organization in the world.
In 2013, the group started carrying out terrorist attacks
in the border regions of neighbouring countries (Chad, Niger and Cameroon). In the Far North Region of Cameroon, for example, a total of 1,098 civilians, 67 soldiers and three police officers have been killed as the result of 315 terrorist attacks. Abubakar Shekau openly threatened
the presidents of these countries, warning them not to send military units to Nigeria to help the federal forces. In August 2014, Shekau, influenced by the success of ISIL, announced the establishment of a Caliphate
in north-eastern Nigeria, with Gwoza as its capital. In March 2015, Boko Haram swore allegiance to the ISIL Caliphate and changed its name
to Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Experts agree that ISIL and Boko Haram have much in common
when it comes to ideological foundations, religious tendencies and values, and strategies and the methods carrying them out. But there are some major differences as well. ISIL has shown that in addition to capturing territories, it can actually govern them, creating a hierarchical power structure and, thanks to their vast oil revenues and the money they receive from selling off monuments of historical significance, providing for the local population. The Nigerian extremists have neither the resources nor the necessary people to govern the so-called Caliphate. Some believe that the group does not have enough people to control the city effectively, and this is why they are not even attempting to set up an alternative administration. The territory
controlled by the extremists has shrunk significantly as a result of increased military operations on the part of the Nigerian army and its allies in the anti-terrorist coalition. But the terrorist attacks continue, suggesting that the group is intent on capturing new bastions in Nigeria's north and central regions.