The organization called Jama atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda a Waati Wal Jihad, but better known as Boko Haram (which roughly translated reads “Western education is forbidden”), is an armed militant group that opposes and attempts to destroy secular authority. They have been fighting the Nigerian state since 2009 through a violent and continually escalating campaign of bomb attacks, hit-and-run raids, kidnappings and the capture and occupation of larger towns in the north-east of the country. They oppose anything they deem “influenced by the West” including voting and secular education. Attempts to derail Boko Haram have included targeted financial sanctions and an arms embargo by the UN Security Council Al Qaida Sanctions Committee. Several states, including France, the UK and US, have promised to help Nigeria following the Chibok abductions of 276 girls in April 2014.
Where: Nigeria and neighbours
Members: Estimated at around 15,000
Deaths: Tens of thousands (at least 20,000 in 2014 alone)
Displaced peoples: 2.4 million
Kidnapped: At least 2,000
Founded in 2002, it is one of the largest Islamist militant groups in Africa and has, since 2011, carried out an increasing wave of terror attacks, assassinations and kidnappings in Nigeria. It has also sought to hold on to territory rather than retreat after attacks, as part of its bid to establish an Islamic State
The Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in May 2013 in three states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. Several military operations have been launched against Boko Haram. President Muhammadu Buhari has insisted his government’s priority is to stop the violence.
Assistance has included sharing intelligence, training for the Nigerian military and joint attempts to organize a regional counter-terrorism strategy.
The UN has unanimously condemned the violence. The council has encouraged Governments to enhance regional military cooperation, and to move “vigorously and decisively” to cut funding flows to individuals, groups, undertakings and entities on the ISIL and Al-Qaeda Sanctions List.
Timeline of the crisis
The group, which may have existed since the late 1990s, organizes under the Muslim cleric Mohammed Yusuf. It is centered in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno.
The first known attack by Boko Haram includes roughly 200 militants, who attack multiple police stations in the state of Yobe, near the Niger border.
The Boko Haram uprising.
More than 200 people are killed when Boko Haram launches coordinated attacks targeting police, military, a prison and other targets in the city of Kano in Kano State.
Unverified media reports claim that Boko Haram has begun peace talks with the Nigerian government. Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qa Qa warns the media against making any more claims.
President Goodluck Jonathan states he has appointed a team to explore the possibility of amnesty for Islamist militants. Shekau responds in an audio statement, stating he should be the one to pardon the government.
Nigeria’s Ministry of Defence announces a military offensive has begun in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe to “rid the nation’s border territories of terrorist bases and activities.”
Boko Haram targets churches in various states on three Sundays in a row, leaving more than 50 people dead.
The Ministry of Defence announces the death of Boko Haram’s second-in-command, Momodu Baba (known as Abu Saad).
A man claiming to be Shekau appears in a video and says that he is alive and well. However, his identity is not verified.
The US State Department adds Boko Haram to its list of terrorist organizations.
Boko Haram militants kidnap approximately 276 teenage girls from a boarding school in Chibok in Borno. Officials there say some of the girls were able to escape. The kidnapping sparks global outrage and a #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media.
The White House announces that the United States has sent 80 troops to Chad to help search for the kidnapped schoolgirls.
The UN Security Council adds Boko Haram to its sanctions list.
Boko Haram militants hold the village of Kummabza in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria, hostage for four days. They abduct more than 60 females, including children, and kill 30 men in the raid.
Sources say at least 57 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram last month from the Kummabza village in northern Borno state have escaped from their captors and returned to their village. Boko Haram is still believed to be holding about 200 schoolgirls abducted April 14 from a boarding school in the town of Chibok.
The Nigerian government announces it has reached a ceasefire agreement with the Islamist terror group that includes the promised release of more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls.
In a video, the group’s leader denies the Nigerian government’s claim of a ceasefire.
In an audio message, supposedly from Shekau, Boko Haram pledges allegiance to ISIS, the Islamic militant group which controls areas of Iraq and Syria. Boko Haram is named “Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya” or “Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyyah,” which means the Islamic State of West Africa.
In an audio message purportedly from an ISIS spokesman, the group announces that the caliphate has expanded to western Africa and that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has accepted Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance.
Nigerian troops rescue about 450 women and girls in the Sambisa Forest during a military operation centered around destroying Boko Haram camps and rescuing civilians. According to the military, none of those rescued have been identified as the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped last April.
241 women and children are rescued, and 43 Boko Haram militants are arrested after the Nigerian military raids camps run by the terrorist group in two villages.
ISIS publication al-Naba says that Sheikh Abu Musab al-Barnawi is the new leader of Boko Haram. A Boko Haram insider confirms to CNN that al-Barnawi, the son of the group’s founder – who was killed by Nigerian security forces in 2009 – is in fact the new leader.
Boko Haram releases a video of some of the girls kidnapped in April 2014 and demands the release of Boko Haram fighters in exchange for the girls.
Boko Haram militants hand over 21 Chibok schoolgirls to authorities after a series of negotiations with the Nigerian government. It’s the first mass release of any of the more than 200 girls and women kidnapped from their school in April 2014.
A Chibok schoolgirl carrying her 10-month-old son is found by the Nigerian army.
The Nigerian army says another missing Chibok girl and her six-month old baby have been located during an operation to arrest suspected Boko Haram terrorists.
The Nigerian army says 700 Boko Haram militants in the north-east of the country have escaped captivity. Theses escapes are said to have happened over a period of time.
8 Nigerian soldiers reported missing after an army convoy is ambushed in the north-eastern state of Borno.
105 girls are released by Boko Haram, after being held captive for over a month. The other girls are unaccounted for, presumed dead. The girls met with President Muhammadu Buhari. The president later promised to increase security at schools.
Dozens killed in Nigeria twin suicide bomb attack at a mosque and market in the north-east city of Mubi. The attack bears hallmarks of Boko Haram.
In a twin suicide bombings, Boko Haram militants kill dozens of civilians as they return to their village in northeast Nigeria from Eid al-Fitr celebrations (the end of Ramadan).
The Nigerian army claims to have rescued more than 1,000 captives—mostly women and children—who were being held by Boko Haram in Borno
Terrorists of Boko Haram attack the Nigerian army in Borno and Yobe State. Initially, 65 soldiers are reported missing, though most eventually returned to base. The attack left 25 soldiers injured and killed two civilians.
Mamman Nur, leader of a prominent faction of Boko Haram is reportedly killed by his own lieutenants
Boko Haram militants kill Hauwa Liman, a Nigerian working for the Red Cross who had been kidnapped by the group last March. This is believed to be the work of new hardline leadership of a breakaway faction.