Ideological/PoliticalGoalsBokoHaram is one of the most ruthlessly violent terrorist organizations in theworld. Although the official death toll is unknown, since their establishmentin early 2002 it is estimated that over 20,000 people have been killed and morethan 2.5 million people have been displaced in attempts to escape the violence.They are considered to be one of the most severe threats to Nigeria.Theyrefer to themselves officially as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad,which translates to English as “People Committed to the Propagation of theProphet’s Teachings and Jihad.” Originally the group was founded simply asan opposition to the influence of the Western world, specifically secular educationin Nigeria but in the past ten years the group has evolved greatly.
In thelocal language of Hausa, the name Boko Haram translates directly to”Western education is forbidden.” When the group was initiallyestablished they were considered to be a predominantly nonviolent sect. Thecurrent political goal of Boko Haram is to overthrow the Nigerian government inorder to create an Islamic caliphate, which would allow for the implementationof Sharia law throughout the country. They believe that non-believers arerunning the current government.
Locally they are often referred to as theNigerian Taliban due to the religious and ideological similarities shared betweenthem and the Taliban (BBC, 2016).Assessment Current LeadershipBokoHaram has an extremely complex and well-organized structure of both leaders andfighters. In 2009 the group faced a major reorganization after key leaders wereassassinated by enemy forces. Mohammed Yusuf was the founder and spiritual leaderof the group for many years until he was killed by police forces in a publicexecution in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Momodu Bama, who was second-in-command at thetime and was announced as the new leader but was killed just 5 days later. UponBama’s death, Abubakar Shekau was appointed as commander.
Abubakar Shekau isconsidered the most-wanted man in Nigeria and there is a 7 million dollarbounty for his capture. His leadership style is especially heinous and he isconsidered to be a ruthless leader with twisted jihad ideologies. Shekau is anespecially hard target because of his many movements and low profile.
Tofurther complicate the situation he often fakes his own death, routinely usesbody doubles to mislead authorities, and never speaks directly to his fighters(Ahmed, 2014). BokoHaram’s strict leadership structure is a significant attribute of their successand resiliency. The group’s commander, also known as an emir, heads a 30-personShura council. Each Shura council member commands a cell of fighters assignedto a specific geographical area. The council heads have limited knowledge ofone another, which allows them to focus solely on their assigned geographicalarea (Nugent, 2013).CapabilitiesBokoHaram’s signature tactic in the early 2000’s was to conduct their attacks whileriding in packs of fast moving motorcycles.
Since then, their capabilities havesignificantly increased. They progressed to more violent and technologically advancedmeans of violence to include: suicide bombing, kidnapping, vehicle-borneimprovised explosive devices, and targeted assignations of high-level Nigerianauthorities through snipers. They haveinstilled fear throughout the entire country by targeting mass casualty areaslike: churches, bus stations, markets, bars, military compounds and even thepolice and UN headquarters.MembershipBokoHaram’s membership is growing rapidly, although most recruits join by willthere are a significant amount that are forced into the service afterabduction. Their propaganda tactics are unique, and they are successful atrecruiting unlikely terrorist demographics like women and small children.Membership is often sought after because unlike many other terrorist groups,Boko Haram pays a decent salary to its fighters, a persuasive elementespecially for an impoverished and marginalized area like northeast Nigeria. Theyoffer various recruitment ranks to its members and have a designated supportforce, which consists of roles like smuggling and logistics.
In2016, the United Nations estimates that over 2,00 children were recruited assoldiers. In December of 2016 there was a suicide bombing in the city ofMaiduguri, Nigeria that killed 13 people. The bombers were reported bywitnesses to be girls younger than 8 years old (Adamczyk, 2017). Recent Operational ActivityTactically,they operate in a very militaristic and extremist fashion.
They will attack andkill any resistance they face but in recent years they have targeted theirviolence towards politicians, policemen and Christian preachers. In April of2014, the group received global attention to include recognition from the WhiteHouse when they abducted 274 girls from a boarding school in northeasternNigeria. The girls were taken as hostages in attempts to leverage the dischargeof 16 Boko Haram militant leaders. The Nigerian government initially refused tonegotiate with the terrorist group but in 2017 they released 5 militant leadersin order to free nearly half of the girls that were in captivity.
Goal Success/FailureAssessmentThecommitment of Boko Haram’s members to the mission of the organization isuncertain. The Nigerian government released 244 members who underwentrehabilitation and are now consider to no longer pose a threat to society asthey are de-radicalized. Although there are many critics that are skeptical ofthe success of the members’ rehabilitation the rehabilitation program is anoteworthy attempt made by the government to minimize the terror presencewithin the country. If the rehabilitation program shows lasting effects itdemonstrates a lack of allegiance by the members and also unsuccessfulindoctrination tactics by the terror group on its members (CNN, 2018)