Boko Haram's deadly insurgency: A legacy of attacks

Photo: AFP

The Boko Haram Islamist group has stolen headlines since kidnapping 276 schoolgirls in Chibok on April 14. But the group has been waging an insurgency to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria for more than a decade.


Founded in the northeastern city of Maiduguri around 2002, Boko Haram aims to overthrow the Nigerian government and establish an Islamic state. The group is known by several different names but since its early years Maiduguri residents have dubbed it "Boko Haram", which in the local Hausa language means, “Western education is forbidden”. (Read more: Boko Haram: Rocking the Nigerian boat)

Boko Haram launched its insurgency in earnest in 2009, carrying out a series of attacks on police stations and administrative buildings in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Thousands of residents fled the city and hundreds of Boko Haram militants were killed in subsequent clashes.

In August 2010 suspected members of Boko Haram attacked a prison and freed more than 700 inmates, security officials said.

Churches in Jos and Maiduguri were struck by blasts while marking Christmas Eve that year, killing dozens.

A bomb attack targeting soldiers in Maiduguri killed at least 10 people in December 2011. Ten days later, a series of attacks across the north that left at least 46 people dead were claimed as revenge killings by Boko Haram.

A series of bomb attacks targeted churches in several Nigerian cities on Christmas Day, leaving dozens dead or wounded in Jos, Kano, Madalla, Damaturu and Gadaka.

The rising violence prompted Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to call on Boko Haram to state its demands in January 2012. (Read more: Can talking to Boko Haram give peace a chance?)

The United Nations warned on January 12 that Boko Haram may be guilty of "crimes against humanity" in Nigeria. A little more than a week later the group claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks and gun battles that left 121 dead in Nigeria's second-largest city of Kano.

Although Boko Haram had long been suspected of having links to al Qaeda, Nigeria's security chief offered his first public confimation of the alliance in February 2012.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility later that month for a deadly attack on a church in the central city of Jos.

Nigeria's government announced in March 2012 that they were in "preliminary talks" with the Islamists.

Boko Haram was supected in an attack that killed four people in Kano in early April 2012, a day after at least 36 people were killed when a car bomb detonated near a church in the city of Kaduna on Easter Sunday.  

The Red Cross said in June 2012 that at least 80 people were killed in days of clashes in northern Nigeria between security forces and Boko Haram militants. 

President Jonathan said later that month that Boko Haram's attacks on churches were an attempt to incite religious violence between Nigeria's Christians and Muslims.

Nigerian security forces killed 20 suspected Boko Haram militants in a shootout in the group's stronghold of Maiduguri in August.

Later in 2012 the Nigerian government mistakenly believed it had killed Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. (Read more: The Boko Haram terror chief who came back from the dead.)

The group claimed responsibility in a video for the February 2013 kidnapping of a French family in northern Cameroon. The family of seven was released two months later. (Read more: French family kidnapped in Cameroon describes ordeal)

In late April of that year, at least 185 people were killed in clashes in the town of Baga while others fled into the scrublands surrounding the fishing community on Lake Chad.

In May 2013 President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Nigeria's Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states and launched a "massive" troop deployment against Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria a day later. At least 21 people were killed in subsequent days as more than 2,000 troops took part in a raid in areas of the Sambisa Game Reserve, a remote savannah of some 500 sq kms (200 sq miles) in Borno state where the Islamists had established bases.

A curfew was imposed in Borno state's capital of Maiduguri and supply routes into the city were blocked in mid-May as Nigeria's military continued its sweeping campaign against the insurgents.

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Nigeria's military later that month to use "discipline" in its offensive against the Islamists as hundreds of Nigerian civilians fled areas targeted by air strikes.

Amnesty International warned on May 22 that Nigeria's state of emergency must not be used "as an excuse to commit human rights violations".

In June 2013 the United States offered a $7 million reward for Boko Haram leader Shekau.

Boko Haram was blamed for an attack on a school in Potiskum in northern Nigeria that left at least 29 dead in July. A day later Nigeria's northeastern Yobe state ordered the closure of all secondary schools until the new term begins in September. 

In the wake of the Nigerian army's offensive, Boko Haram has appeared to increase the frequency and scale of its attacks in recent months.

August 13, 2013: Suspected Boko Haram militants wearing army fatigues gunned down 44 people praying at a mosque near Maiduguri while another 12 civilians died in an apparently simultaneous attack, security sources said.

August 27: Suspected Boko Haram militants left 24 people dead in twin attacks launched in revenge against vigilantes, who the military have encouraged to fight against the Islamists. Officials said the attackers were wearing military uniforms and the vigilantes followed them into the forest, believing them to be government soldiers.

August 31: At least 38 people were killed in weekend attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants, including 14 nomadic herders killed in an attack on a village in the northeastern state of Borno.

September 18: A military strike on a Boko Haram camp left some 150 Islamists and 16 soldiers dead, the army said.

September 22: Insurgents dressed as soldiers set up false checkpoints and gunned down travellers along a highway, killing at least 142, officials said. The militants also burned homes and buildings in the assault and left corpses littering the roadside.

September 29: Suspected Boko Haram members raided a college in northeastern Nigeria and shot dead some 40 students. Many of the boys were killed while they slept.

October 20: Boko Haram militants shot or hacked to death 19 motorists after blocking a highway in Nigeria's restive northeast.

October 25: The Nigerian army killed 74 suspected Boko Haram fighters in ground and air attacks on insurgent camps in restive Borno state.

November 13: The United States officially designated Boko Haram as a "terrorist organisation", making it illegal under US law to provide "material support" to the group. (Read more: What's in a name? Boko Haram Gets a New Terror Title)

November 14: French priest Georges Vandenbeusch was kidnapped by Boko Haram from his northern Cameroon parish near the Nigerian border. Vandenbeusch was subsequently released in late December.

February 19, 2014: Suspected Boko Haram Islamists attacked Bama, a town in Nigeria's troubled northeast.

February 25: Boko Haram Islamists are suspected in the deaths of 43 people in an attack on secondary school students as they slept in the town of Buni Yadi in Yobe state.

February 27: French President François Hollande vows to help Nigeria battle Boko Haram's increasingly deadly insurgency while on a visit to Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

April 13: Boko Haram insurgents attacked Amchaka and nearby villages, hurling improvised explosive devices into homes and shooting residents as they tried to flee. At least 60 people were killed, local officials said.

April 14: At least 71 people were killed when an explosion tore through a busy commuter bus station at rush hour on the outskirts of Abuja.

April 14: Boko Haram gunmen stormed a school in Chibok and forced 276 schoolgirls – who are between 12 and 17 years old – onto a convoy of trucks. Officials say 57 girls have since escaped. (Read More: Escaped Nigerian Schoolgirl Recounts 'Terrifying' Abduction)

May 5: Boko Haram leader Shekau threatened to sell the kidnapped girls into slavery in a 57-minute video released by the group. A day later 11 more schoolgirls were kidnapped from Warabe village.

May 12: Boko Haram released another video showing pictures of the girls, saying they will only be released in a prisoner exchange.

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