More than a decade ago, in a forgotten spot in central Africa far from the world’s attention, local violence occurred at the time that no one had heard of, but which later painted the features of the emergence of one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world. In the early hours of the morning on July 26, 2009, the group “Sunnis for Preaching and Jihad,” known today as “Boko Haram,” launched a simultaneous attack on police headquarters in three northern states in Nigeria in response to the arrest of its leaders. The police then responded with a comprehensive attack, storming the main mosque of the movement, wiping out all those present in it, preventing treatment for the wounded, and leaving them to bleed to death, and within only five days of the confrontations, the police killed more than 700 people.
In contrast to some limited skirmishes, before that date the movement did not engage in unlawful acts of violence against the central authority, but rather consisted of only religious students who had dropped out of school and resided in a religious complex that included a mosque and a school. But the history of Nigeria stopped at that moment, after which everything changed. Muhammad Yusuf, the 39-year-old leader of the organization, fled, but the Nigerian special forces caught up with him and took him to the police station, where he appeared bare-chested, handcuffed, and his left arm had scars that had not healed yet. “Yusef” was killed moments later, a humiliating killing without trial, and that represented the turning point for Boko Haram, which pledged to take revenge, and immediately afterwards joined the banner of Al Qaeda. https://www.youtube.com/embed/pTlbFF2ssyI?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=ar&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
Nigeria is the largest African country in terms of population with a population of more than 200 million people, and the richest in terms of oil production on the continent, despite this, 40% of its population (about 80 million people out of 200 million) is below the poverty line. According to government estimates for 2019, the demographic map is divided between the north of the country, which has been predominantly Muslim since the introduction of Islam in the thirteenth century AD, while Christians have dominated the south since the nineteenth century, due to the evangelization operations led by colonialism for a century and a half. Thanks to the federal system that allows each state to create its own laws, it has not been difficult for the northern states to declare the application of Islamic law consecutively one by one since 2000. (1)
Among the dozens of Islamic groups that were established in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, raising the slogan of “Return to the True Islam”, as they waged an armed struggle in the face of successive governments in response to what they considered a colonial project that overthrew the caliphate and weakened the economy; Boko Haram raises the same slogans, but adds to it the slogan of returning to the image of Nigeria before colonialism when the country prospered under the rule of a Muslim empire for more than five centuries.
American historian William Polk recounts in his book “The Crusades and Jihad” the story of the Islamic Empire of Borno that ruled contemporary northeastern Nigeria and parts of southern Niger, western Chad and northern Cameroon. It enabled it to declare the caliphate .. Therefore, newcomers from the neighboring Muslim state of “Fulani” claimed that the rulers of Brno deviated from the Sunnah, and declared jihad against it, defeated it, and burned its capital in 1810. Then Sultan of Borno resorted to seeking help from “Muhammad Al-Kanami”, one of the Arab religious scholars to save the remnants of his state. (2)
Al-Kanami succeeded in stopping the raging wars and saved the Brno Empire from falling, but its sun continued to wane, after he managed it and became the de facto ruler of it. After the death of the Sultan of Brno, the Kanami ascended the throne directly, and a number of his sons and grandchildren succeeded him, up to the end of the nineteenth century AD, when the empire fell apart and was shared by Britain, France and Germany in 1894. The years of occupation lasted about a century and a half, followed by years dominated by turmoil, oppression and corruption during The twentieth century, and as a result, many northern Muslims in Nigeria look to the time of Brno, searching for a legacy of stability and prosperity from which to draw inspiration from a new social and political future, a vision that clashed with the contemporary reality of Nigeria and its present state with its sectarian diversity.
Nigeria gained independence in 1960, and the country witnessed internal unrest that began with the military coup in 1966, followed by a series of assassinations of a number of leaders, led by Prime Minister Abubakar Blue and President Johnson Agile. The violence continued for nearly a decade during which Nigeria witnessed the abolition of federalism and the suspension of the constitution, which stimulated the emergence of separatist movements, especially Islamic ones in the north, in parallel with the repeated military coups. The country did not know political stability until 1999. With the election of a new president in free elections, but it is a positive change that came late. A few months later, states in northern Nigeria announced the application of Islamic law thanks to a federal system that provides each state with its own laws.While corruption and oppression continued in the folds of a democratic system that inherited more from the past than it was able to renew in the pillars of the Nigerian state, the country was on a date with a boom in the composition of Islamic groups that resulted in the most dangerous jihadist organization known to the entire African continent.
For nearly a century, a large segment of Nigerian Muslims have refused to send their children to education in schools, and according to official estimates , the number of illiterates is about 70 million people, and the reason for this is the high cost of education, in addition to a prevailing belief that the ruling elite does not place education among its priorities. More seriously, the complete conviction that modern education corrupts the values of Muslims. Instead of compulsory education, Quranic schools are spreading, which the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has not found fleeing their financial support, to integrate basic study subjects such as English and mathematics into their curricula.
The story of “Boko Haram” (which means in the local language “Western education is forbidden”) begins in 2002, when Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf, well-known in Nigeria, founded the group “People of the Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad”. The group was founded from students of Sharia and religious sciences, and Boko Haram believes in the infidelity of those responsible for running the Nigerian state, regardless of whether the president is a Muslim or not, and the group prohibits Muslims from participating in any political or social activity related to Western society, including voting in elections, and wearing T-shirts and pants, and receive non-religious education.
The intellectual ideology of the group had not yet converted to jihadism, as it sought to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria only in the hope of restoring the dream of Muslim empires of the past, confronting the alienation of society and getting rid of government corruption and social injustice. The group says that it is “against central authority because of corruption in the government sector, and Islam is against corruption,” and indicates that “if Sharia is applied, corruption will be eliminated.” Although it had not declared jihad against the government until that time, US intelligence obtained information that a contact took place in 2003 between the movement and al-Qaeda, when Osama bin Laden sent an aide to Nigeria to deliver three million dollars to a wide range of Salafi political organizations there that share al-Qaeda’s goal. The imposition of Islamic rule. (3)
According to a common government accusation, in its early years, the group established a state within the state, and relied on the mosque as a central base of government that attracted hundreds of volunteers and the poor. An important shift in the history of the group occurred in 2004, when Muhammad Yusuf established a military base that attracted hundreds of students and youth to become the focus of a global jihadi center, which was enough to attract the attention of the police, especially after the group targeted the police by bombing its buildings and stealing ammunition and weapons. (4)
In 2009, the central Nigerian government led a campaign of violence against Boko Haram in which it killed several of its members. Yusef responded with a threatening letter to the central government stating that “If the attacks of the Special Security Forces do not stop within 40 days, jihad operations will begin in the country that he can only stop. God”. However, the government played down the warnings and launched a major campaign against the mosque and institutions affiliated with Boko Haram, and the latter responded with an armed uprising aimed at destroying police stations, prisons, government offices, schools and churches. And he had been killed in those clashes more than 700 armed at least Boko Haram, headed by the Emir of the group Mohammed Yusuf , who was arrested while trying to escape and were then liquidated, which led to an intellectual shift in the ranks of Boko Haram , making them focus on revenge in the first place .
With the death of Muhammad Yusef, his bloody deputy, Abu Bakr Shekau, took over the leadership, and he used to describe his former leader as being “too moderate,” beginning a new phase marked by bloody rhetoric and deadlier policies on the ground, compared to Muhammad Yusuf’s speeches and previous policies Which focused on the corruption of government and the poor distribution of oil wealth.
While the central government proceeded to liquidate and arrest the remaining bonds of the movement, the new leader insisted on carrying out a qualitative operation and rescuing his comrades from prison, where he went with 50 people carrying machine guns, and forced the prison commander to release hundreds, of whom more than a hundred members of the group faced verdicts. To death. By 2013, the United States designated Boko Haram a terrorist group for destroying dozens of prisons, hundreds of police stations, and killing thousands of people. At the time, Boko Haram was notorious for kidnapping girls, recruiting them, and forcing them to carry out suicide attacks in markets and in crowds to kill as many as possible.
Until that time, the movement was not known internationally, despite its bloody because of its location in a forgotten part of the world, but it gained wide fame in April 2014 after it kidnapped 276 students from a school in Brno state who were receiving a modern education, and the movement said that it would treat them as slaves and war spoils . According to UNICEF estimates, as of 2015 , Boko Haram had caused the closure of more than a thousand schools, forcing one million people to leave schools, and its armed rebellion caused the deaths of about 17 thousand and the displacement of two million people.
The major shift in the march of Boko Haram came in March 2015 after it declared allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), and changed its name to “West African State”. A year later, the organization appointed Abu Musab Al-Barnawi as the new emir of the movement – he was overthrown in a white internal coup in 2019 – who promised not to attack markets and mosques frequented by Muslims in northern Nigeria. The affiliation of Boko Haram, the most dangerous terrorist organization in Africa now, under the banner of ISIS, with its effective control over several cities in the northeast, stimulated the formation of a regional coalition consisting of Nigerian army forces, volunteers and forces from Chad and Cameroon to wage a regular war in which aircraft were used. Regaining four cities, while ISIS continued to control four out of ten districts in northern Borno state, near Lake Chad. (5)
Two decades after the founding of Boko Haram, and a decade ago on its extremist war in the name of Islam, the organization has become more deadly, stronger and better armed, and in 2019 it announced that it had acquired drones that were not in the possession of the Nigerian army itself; This prompted Nigeria to request US assistance in deploying its drones there. Although the current president of Nigeria, General Muhammad BukhariHe came to power in 2015 based on an electoral program that pledged to defeat the organization within two years. Its forces were unable to storm the rural cities in the northeast, where Boko Haram is stationed and its kidnapping operations continue without deterrence. There is no official data available about the number of fighters in the ranks of the movement, and the government, on its part, has not made any successful concessions to negotiate with the movement and reach with it a negotiation formula to leave arms, indications that lead us to one indication, which is that Boko Haram’s control of northern Nigeria will continue for a long time to come .