Boko Haram mounted its first attack in 2004, and since then the group has been responsible for thousands of deaths. The sect demands the adoption of sharia, and has killed many Christians in church bombings as well as more moderate Muslims. There also have been bloody attacks on educational institutions, the mass kidnapping and enslavement of women and children, scorched-earth attacks on entire villages, and attacks outside N Nigeria. In 2011 a UN building in Abuja was struck by a suicide bomber from the group.
After Boko Haram's leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by Nigerian security forces in 2009, the group appeared to fragment. At least one of the resulting splinter groups, Ansaru, which formed in 2012 and mainly has targeted Westerners in Nigeria, has formed an alliance with Al Qaeda. In 2010 Abubakar Shekau claimed leadership of Boko Haram. Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin agreed in 2012 to establish a joint military task force to combat the group, which was operating outside Nigeria, but disagreements stalled any significant move toward its creation until 2015.
In 2014 the group moved from hit-and-run attacks to holding territory, and declared an Islamic state in the parts of NE Nigeria it controlled; it also increasingly targeted political figures. Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in 2015 as it faced a counteroffensive from Nigeria and its neighbors, in which Chadian and Nigerian forces largely forced the group from towns it had controlled. By mid-2016 Nigerian forces had regained much of the territory Boko Haram had seized in 2014. The group nonetheless remained capable of launching deadly attacks.
In 2016 Shekau denounced the claim that he had been replaced as Boko Haram's leader by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who subsequently became the leader of the Islamic State in West Africa, an insurgent group that established itself in the rural areas of the Lake Chad basin and was endorsed by the Islamic State. There was a surge in attacks by various Boko Haram factions in Nigeria beginning in late 2018, and by late 2019 the Nigerian military no longer controlled of a number of rural areas in Borno.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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