THE BOKO HARAM SET
(ORIGIN, IDEOLOGY AND MODE OF OPERATION)
Boko Haram was created in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, by Islamist cleric Mohammed Yusuf, who led a group of radical Islamist youth in the 1990s. The group aims to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria, including the implementation of criminal sharia courts across the country. Paul Lubeck, a University of California professor studying Muslim societies in Africa, says Yusuf was a trained Salafist (a school of thought often associated with jihad), and was strongly influenced by Ibn Taymiyyah, a fourteenth-century legal scholar who preached Islamic fundamentalism and is an important figure for radical groups in the Middle East.
The sect calls itself Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, or “people committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad.” It’s widely known as Boko Haram, which colloquially translates into “Western education is sin,” for its rejection of Western concepts such as evolution and the big bang theories.
The sect calls itself Jama’atul Alhul Sunnah Lidda’wati wal jihad, or “people committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad.” The name, Boko Haram, was given to the group by residents of Maiduguri, Borno state where the group was formed. “Boko” means “fake”, but is used to signify Western education, while “Haram” means “forbidden”, so Boko Haram colloquially translates into “Western education is sin.”
Boko Haram’s origins are believed to have been influenced by the teachings of Maitatsine, Mohammed Marwa, a Muslim fundamentalist, who rejected the influence of the education system imposedd by the British when they conquered the Sokoto Caliphate in 1903. Its followers also strictly adhere to a phrase from the Koran which states, “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors”.
Boko Haram was created in 2002 by Mohammad Yusuf (1970-2009), a radical Islamist cleric, in Maiduguri, Borno state, in northeastern Nigeria. He set up a religious complex, called Markaz, following his expulsion from two mosques in Maiduguri by Muslim clerics for propagating his radical views. The complex included a mosque and an Islamic school. Many poor Muslim families in Nigeria, and neighbouring countries, sent their children to the school to get a proper education which the government of Nigeria has failed to provide. The centre had ulterior political goals to to create an Islamic state and impose Sharia laws, and it soon became a recruiting ground for future jihadis to fight the state.
For the first seven years of its existence, Boko Haram’s operations were relatively peaceful, and they typically only criticized northern Muslims for participating in what the group considered to be an illegitimate, non-Islamic state, but in 2009 the government began investigating reports that Boko Haram members were arming themselves, and when Boko Haram members defied a ban on riding motorcycles without helmets, this led to deadly clashes with Nigeria security forces. The incident was suppressed by the army and about 700 people are estimated to have been killed. The group’s founder, Mohammad Yusuf, was also arrested and was later killed while still in police custody. His father in-law and other sect members were also killed in circumstances which human rights groups have called extra-judicial killings. Mohammad Yusuf’s lifeless body was shown on television and the security forces declared that Boko Haram had been eradicated.
However, after Mohammad Yusuf’s death, Boko Haram carried out its first terrorist attack in Borno state in January 2010 and four people were killed. Since then, Boko Haram has increased the frequency and intensity of its attacks with increased suicide bombings and assassinations spreading from Maiduguri to Abuja.
Boko Haram was founded as an indigenous group, turning itself into a Jihadist group in 2009. It proposes that interaction with the Western world is forbidden, and also supports opposition to the Muslim establishment and the government of Nigeria.
The members of the group do not interact with the local Muslim population and have carried out assassinations in the past of anyone who criticises it, including Muslim clerics.
In a 2009 BBC interview, Mohammed Yusuf, then leader of the group, stated his belief that the fact of a spherical Earth is contrary to Islamic teaching and should be rejected, along with Darwinian evolution and the fact of rain originating from water evaporated by the sun. Before his death, Yusuf reiterated the group’s objective of changing the current education system and rejecting democracy. Nigerian academic Hussain Zakaria told BBC News that the controversial cleric had a graduate education, spoke proficient English, lived a lavish lifestyle and drove a Mercedes-Benz.
In the wake of the 2009 crackdown on its members and its subsequent reemergence, the growing frequency and geographical range of attacks attributed to Boko Haram have led some political and religious leaders in the north to the conclusion that the group has now expanded beyond its original religious composition to include not only Islamic militants, but criminal elements and disgruntled politicians as well. For instance Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima said of Boko Haram: “[they have] become a franchise that anyone can buy into. It’s something like a Bermuda Triangle.” The group has also forcibly converted non-Muslims to Islam.
Dr Ahmad Murtada of the Islamic Studies Department, University of Bayero, Kano has noted in his research into Mohammed Yusuf and Boko Haram that the core principles of the group are: an emphasis on ‘Hakimiyyah’ [sovereignty to God’s law]; a belief that they are the “Saved Sect” mentioned in the Prophetic Tradition of Islam; prohibiting studying in Western educational centres of learning as they consider them to be based on non-Islamic traditions and colonialism, they thus criticise Saudi Arabia for its usage of “Western” educational methods; prohibiting working in any governmental institution or civil service role; a contorted interpretation of the edicts of scholars from the classical tradition such as Ibn Taymiyyah to support their rebellions and use of violence; post-2009 a close relationship with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and further incorporation into the global Jihadi and Takfiri worldview. Boko Haram have thus been widely rejected and repudiated by adherents of the Salafi tradition in Nigeria.
MODE OF OPERATION
In March 2012, it was reported that Boko Haram had taken a strategy to simulate convoys of high-profile Nigerians to access target buildings that are secured with fortifications. Boko Haram has also reportedly attacked Christian worship centres to “trigger reprisal in all parts of the country”, distracting authorities so they can unleash attacks elsewhere.
The group is also known for using motorcycles as a vehicle to assassinating government officials and security officers. This has led to motorcycle bans in the city of Maiduguri.
It was gathered that the group uses the Internet to propagate its activities and enhance its radicalisation and circulation of extremist ideologies. Boko Haram is reportedly planning to greatly increase its following in many states. Talk of Naija reported that Boko Haram has been involved in a recruitment drive, and they are allegedly targeting Muslims between ages of 17 and 30, and have also been recruiting freed prisoners through prison breaks. The group is also known to assign non-Kanuris on suicide missions.
The same source disclosed that the sect has developed a sophisticated leadership structure that includes several departments headed by highly trained personnel and charged with specific assignments. The security source stated that the organization, which is waging a violent fight against the Nigerian state, has developed a layered organizational structure.
“The Shura Council serves as the highest decision making body,” said the source. In addition, the sect has recruited numerous members trained as specialists in suicide bombings. Other sub-groups include those specialized in stealing/disposing expensive cars at gun point for use in terrorist work; those who gather intelligence and carry out research for possible targets and modes of operation; those trained as ground troops to repel security agents and other counter actions against the sect in armed duels.
The source disclosed that Boko Haram maintains a department in charge of bomb making as well as the fixing of explosives for suicide bombers and bomb planters. A different cell specializes in planting bombs at targeted sights. In addition, there is a department that handles the welfare of members as well as suicide bombers’ surviving wives and children.
The sect’s public enlightenment department takes charge of outside communication, including all email, “youtube” and other video coverage. A team is charged with recruitment and training of new members.
Also, the medical committee oversees the healthcare needs of members and their families.
Members of the Boko Haram sect have now devised a new mode of operation as they now resort to destroying farmlands yet to be harvested by setting such farms on fire.
In its modes of operations, Boko Haram seems to function in two ways;
1. As a faceless group of coward terrorists
As a faceless group, they carry out co-ordinated surprise attacks against defenseless citizens striking at churches, markets, relaxation spots and government offices. They typically use suicide bomb attacks or hit and run gun attacks from motorcycles. The Christmas Day Bombings, gun attacks against Christians in Church in Yola and Bauchi and the UN building bombing are examples.
2. As a spineless group of militants
They would typically organize themselves into armed groups of scores of armed men with guns and bombs and attack targets often times shooting and killing people indiscriminately and burning houses, cars and attacking police stations etc. The last Kano attack, the Damaturu attacks on churches and co-ordinated attacks against soldiers on patrol in Maiduguri are examples.
Based on my analysis, these are my recommendations;
1. Government through the security agencies should round up their members and interrogate the lower rung members to obtain information about their operations
2. Identify and assassinate their sponsors and leaders. This works very well because terrorist groups operate on a one-to-many basis meaning that death of their leaders weakens their network and efficiency, their sponsors and leaders are cowards and don’t want to die, once they start dying, the tide begins to change.
3. Deploy soldiers to patrol areas where they have operated with so much impunity. Maiduguri is calmer today because of the efforts of JTF, instead they have shifted base to Chad and Cameroun from where they infiltrate our country and carry out their attacks.
4. Use airstrikes to attack their bases and hideouts. With our defence budget this year we should be able to buy a few drones and attack helicopters to deal with these animals. Israel deals with militants this way, Hamas is always scared of carrying out rocket attacks because of airstrikes that has killed many of their leaders in the past.
5. Citizens should go about their lawful business and shouldn’t fear Boko Haram. They need us to be scared for them to have any power over us. Just be vigilant and inform the police whenever you see something suspicious
6. Dialogue with them should not be an option, this will only embolden them and give them more reasons to carry out further attacks
TIMELINE OF BOKO HARAM ATTACKS AND ACTIVITIES
• February 2014: attack on some village settlement in Michika LGA of Adamawa state.
• February 2014: attack on the Convoy of Adamawa state Governor
• February 2014: 49 secondary school students killed in yobe state
• January 2012: Boko Haram launches bomb attacks and heavy gun battles in Kano targeting the police headquarters. Over 150 people reported killed.
• January 2012: President Goodluck Jonathan says Boko Haram has infiltrated government, including the executive, national assembly and the judiciary.
• January 2012: President Goodluck Jonathan declares a state of emergency in 15 local government areas in Borno, Yobe and Plateau states and also orders the closure of Nigeria’s land borders in the north.
• December 2011: Christmas Day bomb attack on Saint Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger state, near Abuja. One policeman is killed in a failed bomb attack on a church in Jos, Plateau state.
• November 2011: Boko Haram announces that it will not hold talks with the government until all members of the sect, who have been arrested, are released.
• November 2011: Series of bomb and gun attacks in Yobe and Borno states
• September 2011: Babakura Fugu, brother-in-law to late Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, is shot dead two days after attending a peace meeting with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. Boko Haram denies any involvement in the incident.
• August 2011: UN headquarters in Abuja is bombed. Boko Haram claims responsibility for the suicide bomb. 23 people killed.
• July 2011: Federal government states that it will create a panel to initiate negotiations with Boko Haram.
• August 2011: Federal government rejects negotiations with Boko Haram.
• June 2011: Muslim cleric critical of Boko Haram, Ibrahim Birkuti, is shot dead by two gunmen on a motorcycle.
• June 2011: Police headquarters in Abuja is bombed
• May 2011: Bomb attacks in several states after President Goodluck Jonathan’s inauguration
• December 2010: Attack on Army barracks in Abuja.
• December 2010: Bombings in Jos, Plateau state and Maiduguri, Borno state kill about 80 people.
• December 2010: Governorship candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in Borno state and seven others shot dead by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members
• September 2010: Boko Haram members attack a prison in Bauchi and freed hundreds of prisoners, including about 100 members of the sect.
• July 2009: Boko Haram attacks Maiduguri police stations. Hundreds are killed
• July 2009: Mohammed Yusuf, leader of Boko Haram, is captured by the Nigerian army and handed over to police. He is found dead later and the police claims he was killed while trying to escape. Residents and human rights groups claim that he was assasinated.
• June 2009: Boko Haram members refuse to follow a motor-bike helmet law. Clashes with joint military and police occur, and 17 Boko Haram members are killed. Mohammed Yusuf releases a video recording to the president where he threatens revenge attacks.
• 2007: Buju Foi, an influential Boko Haram member,is appointed by Borno state governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, as commissioner of religious affairs.
• 2002: Boko Haram is founded
BOKO HARAM: PICTURE GALLERY
Leader of the Sect, Abubakar Shekau Houses bombarded by Boko Haram militant
Former Leader, Yusuf Mohammed, Islamist group attack a town hall in Adamawa state
Killed in Gun duel with the Army.
Bomb buildings in kano state Bomb media house in Kaduna
Bomb police complex in Abuja Part of UN building bomb
Bomb cars and building in kano and Abuja
Bomb U.N building
Many of the group’s senior radicals were reportedly partially inspired by the late Islamic preacher known as Maitatsine. Others believe the group is motivated by inter-ethnic disputes as much as religion, and that its founder Yusuf believed there was a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” by Plateau State governor Jonah Jang against the Hausa and Fulani people. Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian government of human rights abuses after 950 suspected Boko Haram militants died in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force in the first half of 2013. The conflicts have left around 90,000 people displaced. Human Rights Watch claims that Boko Haram uses child soldiers, including 12 year olds.
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