Boko Haram was founded in Maiduguri, Borno State, in Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, who preached a philosophy of withdrawal from what he viewed as a corrupt and un-Islamic society.  Prior to 2009, the group largely nonviolent, but it did engage in several attacks on Nigerian security forces. In 2003, Boko Haram established a small settlement near the border of Niger called “Afghanistan.” Local officials denounced the settlement and called for it to be disbanded. Eventually tensions led Boko Haram to assault the homes of local officials and police, to which the Nigerian security forces retaliated, killing several Boko Haram members and destroying “Afghanistan.” Despite frequent arrests of Yusuf, Boko Haram and the Nigerian government maintained an uneasy truce for the next five years.
In 2009, after a battle between Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces, Yusuf was captured and extrajudicially executed while in custody. The group was inactive until July 2010 when the former second-in-command of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, released a video assuming leadership as well as promising attacks. The threat was acted upon when Boko Haram conducted several suicide bombings and assassinations around the country as well as carrying out a prison break in Bauchi, which freed close to 700 inmates. On August 26, 2011 Boko Haram detonated a car-bomb at the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, killing 23 people. Coordinated bomb and gun attacks in Kano in January 2012 killed at least 180 people, Boko Haram’s deadliest single-day assault. The influence of Al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb on Boko Haram also reportedly increased over this time period, with some analysts attributing the increased sophistication of Boko Haram attacks to this relationship. The increased intensity of attacks prompted the Nigerian government in May 2013 to declare a state of emergency in three states, Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, as well as establish a Joint Task Force (JTF) effort to push Boko Haram out of cities.
Boko Haram gained more international notoriety in 2014 when the group kidnapped over 200 Chibok schoolgirls for various purposes, such as prisoner exchanges and to sell them into marriage. Beginning in the late spring and summer of 2014, Boko Haram began seizing villages in towns in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states. As of January 2015, Boko Haram controlled multiple towns and villages, primarily in Borno and Adamawa states, with up to 20,000 square miles of territory under its control. However, offensives by the Nigerian, Chadian, Nigerien, and Cameroonian militaries reclaimed some of this territory. In March 2015, Shekau announced that Boko Haram was pledging allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with reports that ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had accepted the pledge. View full narrative