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 Boko Haram

Also known as: Group of the Followers of the Prophet for Propagation and Holy Struggle; Islamic State in West Africa; Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad; Nigerian Mujahideen; Nigerian Taliban; People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad; Western Education is Forbidden; Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyah; Yusuffiya Movement; Yusuffiya Sect.

This statement is based on publicly available information about Boko Haram. To the Australian Government's knowledge, this information is accurate, reliable and has been corroborated by classified information.

Basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code  provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Attorney-General must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

  1. is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, or assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act; or
  2. advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

For the purposes of listing a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code, the doing of a terrorist act includes the doing of a specific terrorist act, the doing of more than one terrorist act and the doing of a terrorist act, even if a terrorist act does not occur.

Background to this listing

The Australian Government first proscribed the organisation on 26 June 2014.

Terrorist activity of the organisation


Boko Haram's primary objective is the establishment of an Islamic State under Shariah law in Nigeria. Its secondary objective is the wider imposition of Islamic rule beyond Nigeria. On 7 March 2015, Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to the proscribed terrorist organisation Islamic State and its aims are consistent with those of Islamic State.

Directly or indirectly engaged in preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts

To achieve its objectives, Boko Haram continues to conduct attacks against military and civilian targets in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and foreign interests in those countries. Tactics employed include ambushes, armed attacks, bombings, suicide attacks and kidnappings.

Examples of terrorist attacks and actions for which Boko Haram is responsible, or can be reliably held responsible, since it was last listed include:

  • 9 December 2016: two suicide bomb attacks in a market in Madagali, Nigeria, killing 56 people.
  • 28 July 2016: an ambush against a United Nations convoy near Bama, Nigeria, wounding five people.
  • 3 June 2016: an armed attack against a military post in Bosso, Niger, killing over 30 people.
  • 9 February 2016: two suicide bomb attacks at an internally displaced persons camp in Dikwa, Nigeria, killing 58 people.
  • 20 September 2015: coordinated bomb attacks in Maiduguri, Nigeria, killing over 100 people.
  • 15 June 2015: two suicide bomb attacks targeting police facilities in N'Djamena, Chad, killing 34 people.
  • 7 March 2015: four suicide bomb attacks in Maiduguri, Nigeria, killing 54 people.
  • 6 February 2015: an armed attack against the town of Fotokol, Cameroon, killing 91 people.
  • 3–7 January 2015: Boko Haram claimed responsibility for armed attacks against Baga and nearby villages in Nigeria, with estimates of hundreds killed and thousands of structures destroyed.
  • 13 December 2014: an armed raid against the town of Gumsuri, Nigeria, killing 32 and kidnapping 185 people.
  • 16 July 2014: kidnapping of a German national in Gombe, Nigeria, rescued after six months through a military operation.

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

Since Boko Haram was last listed it has continued to advocate the doing of terrorist acts, including:

  • In a statement posted publicly on 29 December 2016, Boko Haram leadership figure Abubakar Shekau has stated that Boko Haram intends to fight to establish a separate Islamic State and has encouraged followers to conduct killings and abductions.
  • In August 2016, Shekau threatened to attack Nigerian Government and military leaders and to expand Boko Haram's war beyond Nigeria.
  • In February 2015, Shekau threatened to disrupt Nigerian elections in March using violence.

In an interview published on 2 August 2016, Boko Haram leadership figure Abu Musab al-Barnawi stated publicly that Boko Haram is at war with the Nigerian and other regional African governments backed by Western authorities and that Boko Haram is fighting to reclaim territory taken by these powers. Al-Barnawi pledged to oppose Christian and Western influences deemed to undermine Islamist society, including using violent means.

Details of the organisation

Boko Haram follows an extreme interpretation of Islam which is anti-Western, promotes sectarian violence and targets those who do not agree with its interpretation as infidels and apostates. Boko Haram rejects existing national borders and opposes elected governments, seeking to remove them through violence if necessary.

Boko Haram is a recognised affiliate of Islamic State but its adherence to a jihadist ideology predates Islamic State's existence. Boko Haram was initially formed as a non-violent religious movement in 1995. It was made up of small bands of mainly young, middle-class Nigerians in the northern Muslim-dominated states of Nigeria. Boko Haram began its violent activities in December 2003, initiating unrest in northern Nigeria that prompted an extensive security force response. Since July 2010, Boko Haram has adopted a much more active and violent approach to advance its goals, undertaking frequent attacks of increasing complexity and effectiveness. Although territory held by Boko Haram has varied over time due to regional military operations, it has strongholds in the Sambisa Forest in Nigeria, islands in Lake Chad and the Mandara mountains on the Nigeria-Cameroon border.


It is unclear whether any individual hasoverall control of Boko Haram. Abubakar Shekau assumed leadership of Boko Haramin July 2010 and was the leader at the time of its first proscription. However,Islamic State leadership nominated Abu Musab al-Barnawi as Boko Haram'sleader in March 2016 following apparent internal dissatisfaction with Shekau'sleadership. Although this has resulted in a more decentralised andfactionalised leadership structure, both leadership figures retain theirloyalty to Islamic State and share its ideology and objectives. In addition toleadership disputes, Boko Haram'sregional commanders reportedly also have a large degree of autonomy inconducting operations in pursuit of Boko Haram's objectives.


Boko Haram's total membership is uncertainbut is estimated at thousands to tens of thousands of members, with membersoriginating chiefly from north eastern Nigeria and neighbouring regions.Boko Haram has incurred numerous losses following Nigerian and regionalmilitary coalition operations against the group since 2015 but reinforces itsnumbers through voluntary and forced recruitment.

Recruitment and funding

Boko Haram exploits poor economic and socialconditions in north eastern Nigeria and neighbouring regions to attractmembers. Recruits are drawn by Boko Haram's ability to provide economicprospects for its members and to avoid persecution by the group. Recruits alsojoin Boko Haram through coercion from the group or pressure from associates andfamily members. The group bolsters itsrecruited numbers through kidnappings, forcing captives to serve the group.Some captives, including women and children, are forced to conduct attacks,including suicide bombings.

Boko Haram funds itself primarily throughcriminal activities such as arms and human trafficking, extortion, bankrobberies, looting and kidnap-for-ransom operations. Historically, Boko Haram also reportedlyreceived funds and weapons from al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb.The current state of financial ties with other terrorist groups, such asIslamic State and al-Qa'ida, is unclear.

Links to other terrorist organisations

Boko Haram is an officially recognisedaffiliate of, and ideologically aligned with, Islamic State.

Boko Haram has historical ties with al-Qa'idain the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb and al-Shabaab but these have dissipateddue to Boko Haram leadership's more recent alignment with Islamic State.

Links to Australia

There are no known links between Boko Haram andAustralia.

Threats to Australian interests

Boko Haram has not made statementsspecifically threatening Australians or Australian interests; however, thegroup has issued statements threatening Westerners and Western interests ingeneral.

Listed by the United Nations or like-mindedcountries

Nigeria approved the proscription of BokoHaram as a terrorist organisation under Nigerian law in May 2013. This wasfollowed by the United Kingdom in July 2013, the United States in November2013, Canada in December 2013 and New Zealand in March 2014. The United Nationslisted Boko Haram as an entity subject to sanctions in the ISIL (Da'esh) andAl-Qaida Sanctions List on 22 May 2014.

Engagement in peace or mediation processes

Since it was last listed, Boko Haram has not participatedin peace or mediation processes with the Governments of Nigeria, Niger,Cameroon or Chad.


On the basis of the above information, ASIO assesses that Boko Haram is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts or advocates the doing of terrorist acts, involving threats to human life and serious damage to property.

In the course of pursuing its objectives, Boko Haram is known to have committed or threatened actions that:

    1. cause, or could cause, death, serious harm to persons, serious damage to property, endanger life (other than the life of the person taking the action), or create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public;
    2. are intended to have those effects;
    3. are done with the intention of advancing Boko Haram's political, religious or ideological causes;
    4. are done with the intention of intimidating the government of one or more foreign countries; and are done with the intention of intimidating the public or sections of the public
    5. and are done with the intention of intimidating the public or sections of the public.