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The Origin and Collapse of Boko Haram

In a country of more than 200 million, Nigeria is a nation that is plagued with violence and terrorism that feeds into its poverty and reliougs extremism. Boko Haram is one of the many terrorist groups that claims to defend Islam and is prevalnt in the region. It is active in the regions northeastern Nigeria, Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. The group was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002. They were led by Abubakar Shekau from 2009 until his death in 2021. After his death, the group fractured into smaller groups.

Over the last 11 years, they have spread violence in Africa’s Lake Chad region, consisting of 4 different nations. According to a report from the Global Conflict Tracker, the movement has killed more than 18,000 people, internally displaced millions in the African continent and caused a large-scale humanitarian crisis. The group rose to international prominence in April 2014 when they kidnapped 276 girls from their school dorm in the Chibok village in northeastern Nigeria. Like other groups of their nature, they also recruit young boys into their army and kidnap children for sexual slavery.

The group was formed on the ideology to ‘purify’ Islam in Nigera. According to the Global Terrorism Index, they were one of the world’s deadliest terror groups in 2010s. After its formation in 2002, Boko Haram's increasing radicalisation led to the suppression operation by the Nigerian military and the killing of its leader Mohammed Yusuf in July 2009. In mid-2014, the militants gained control of swaths of territory in and around their home state of Borno, estimated at 50,000 square kilometers (20,000 sq mi) in January 2015, but did not capture the state capital, Maiduguri, where the group was originally based.

On 7 March 2015, Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. According to the BBC, due to internal disputes between the two groups, hundreds of terrorists left Boko Haram and formed their own organization, named "Islamic State's West Africa Province". In September 2015, the Director of Information at the Defense Headquarters of Nigeria announced that all Boko Haram camps had been destroyed but attacks from the group continued. In 2019, president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari claimed that Boko Haram was "technically defeated". However, attacks by Boko Haram have escalated and it still posed a major threat till 2021. In May 2021, Nigerian officials and a separate investigation conducted by The Wall Street Journal backed recent claims that Shekau was dead.

With the announcement of Shekau’s death, the Nigerian Army Chief made a statement claiming that Boko Haram had collapsed. He was partially right, the group split up. But Boko Haram still exists, and operates in North-eastern Nigeria, President Buhari stated. Mr Buhari, however, said the terror group “has been degraded, but its members are still a nuisance around Lake Chad and surrounding islands.” He had also said in May that Boko Haram had been defeated and Nigerian forces were now battling an “international criminal gang known as Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP).”

ISWAP is a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, the terror group in Nigeria whose activities have caused over 20,000 deaths since 2009. Apart from Mr Buratai, a lieutenant-general, other officials of the Buhari administration have made different claims about the group being ‘defeated’, ‘technically defeated’ or ‘decimated.’ Although Nigerian and allied forces have largely limited the terror group to three North-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, the Boko Haram are still able to attack civilian and military targets killing hundreds of people in 2019.

Even with the conflicting reports about the status of the group, the people of Nigeria can breathe a temporary sigh of relief. With the death of their leader and the subsequent fracture of the group, Boko Haram and its influence seem to have faded into the dark. With the country’s military and other allied forces helping them take down the remaining factions of the group, Boko Haram seems to have fallen.


Boko Haram | Today's latest from Al Jazeera. (n.d.). Al Jazeera.

Boko Haram in Nigeria | Global Conflict Tracker. (n.d.). Council on Foreign Relations.

'Extreme and stubborn': the rise and fall of Boko Haram's brutal leader. (2021, June 7). The National.

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