Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - Chapter 5 - Boko Haram (BH)

aka Nigerian Taliban; Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad; Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad; People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad; Sunni Group for Preaching and Jihad

Description:  Boko Haram (BH) was designated as an FTO on November 14, 2013.  The Nigeria-based group is responsible for numerous attacks in northern and northeastern regions of the country as well as in the Lake Chad Basin in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger that have killed thousands of people since 2009.

In March 2015, BH pledged allegiance to ISIS in an audiotape message.  ISIS accepted the  pledge, and BH began calling itself ISIS-West Africa.  In August 2016, ISIS announced that Abu Musab al-Barnawi was to replace Abubakar Shekau as the new leader of the group.  Infighting then led BH to split.  Shekau maintains a group of followers and affiliates concentrated primarily in the Sambisa Forest; this faction is known as Boko Haram, while al‑Barnawi’s group is now separated and designated as ISIS-West Africa.

Activities:  BH crosses porous Lake Chad region borders to target civilians and military personnel in northeast Nigeria, the Far North Region of Cameroon, and parts of Chad and Niger.  The group continued to evade pressure from Lake Chad country forces, including through the regional Multinational Joint Task Force.

Throughout 2014, BH killed about 5,000 Nigerian civilians in various attacks.  In April 2014, the group kidnapped 276 female students from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State. BH has continued to abduct women and girls in the northern region of Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, some of whom are subjected to domestic servitude, other forms of forced labor, and sexual servitude, including through forced marriages to its members.  For further information, refer to the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report.

In January 2015, BH carried out a massacre in Baga, Borno State; reported casualties ranged from 150 to more than 2,000 killed, injured, or disappeared.  The January 2015 attacks and other BH operations in surrounding smaller villages in 2015 displaced an estimated 35,000 people and allowed BH to gain control of Borno State.

Between 2017 and 2018, BH increased its forced abduction of women and girls and ordered them to carry out suicide attacks on civilians, including the January 2017 attack against the University of Maiduguri in Borno State, and twin attacks against a mosque and market in Adamawa State, Nigeria, in May 2018, killing 86.

BH continued its terrorist attacks in 2018 and 2019.  Between January and November 2019, BH reportedly killed at least 275 people, mostly civilians, and displaced thousands in the Far North Region of Cameroon.  In February, the group killed at least 60 people in a renewed assault on the northeast Nigerian town of Rann.  In July, at least 65 people were killed and 10 others injured in an attack by suspected BH fighters on a funeral in Borno State.

Strength:  BH is estimated to have several thousand fighters.

Location/Area of Operation:  Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad

Funding and External Aid:  BH largely self-finances through criminal activities such as looting, extortion, kidnapping-for-ransom, and bank robberies.