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 Boko Haram

Also known as: Group of the Followers of the Prophet for Propagation and Holy Struggle; Jama’at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da’awa wal-Jihad; 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; 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 Act 1995 provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the AFP Minister must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

  • is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, or assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act (whether or not a terrorist act has occurred or will occur); or
  • advocates the doing of a terrorist act (whether or not a terrorist act has occurred or will occur).

Background to this listing

The Australian Government first proscribed Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation on 1 July 2014. It was relisted on 1 July 2017.

Boko Haram pledged allegiance to, and was accepted as a branch of, Islamic State in March 2015 and renamed itself as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). A dispute over the leadership of ISWAP in August 2016 resulted in the emergence of two factions of the group. One faction continued to operate as ISWAP and another faction reverted to the use of Boko Haram’s formal name Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad. Although Boko Haram has not officially split from ISWAP, the groups are assessed to operate independently.

Terrorist activity of the organisation

Boko Haram, formally named Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, follows an extreme interpretation of Islam which is anti-Western, promotes sectarian violence and targets as infidels and apostates those who do not agree with this interpretation. Boko Haram rejects existing national borders and opposes elected governments, seeking to remove them through violence if necessary.

Objectives

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.

Boko Haram has undertaken the following to advance its ideology and achieve its objectives:

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

Boko Haram has engaged in terrorist attacks and kidnappings against a wide range of targets in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Recent attacks for which Boko Haram can be reliably held responsible include:

  • 9 February 2020: Boko Haram killed at least 30 people in an armed attack in Auno.
  • 16 June 2019: Boko Haram killed at least 30 people in three suicide bombings in Konduga.
  • 14 January 2019: Boko Haram killed 14 people in an armed attack in Rann.
  • 1 May 2018: Boko Haram killed at least 86 people in two suicide bombings in Mubi.

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

Boko Haram has publicly advocated the doing of terrorist attacks in order to further its objectives. Public statements in which Boko Haram has advocated terrorist attacks include:

  • 4 July 2019: Abubakar Shekau extolled jihad and martyrdom as earning rewards for Muslims, and commanded supporters to punish those who do not comply with Islam, a likely reference to carrying out violent terrorist attacks on behalf of the group.
  • 28 December 2018: Abubakar Shekau called for all Muslims to wage jihad and fight until death to re‑establish an Islamic caliphate and until Islam was the only religion, a reference to violent terrorist attacks on behalf of the group.

Details of the organisation

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 adopted a much more active and violent approach to advance its goals, undertaking frequent attacks against civilian and military targets. Although territory held by Boko Haram has varied over time due to regional military operations, it has strongholds in the Sambisa Forest in Nigeria, and the Mandara mountains on the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

Leadership

Abubakar Shekau assumed leadership of Boko Haram in July 2010 and declared allegiance to Islamic State in March 2015, changing the group’s formal name from Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad to Islamic State in West Africa. However, Islamic State leadership nominated Abu Musab al-Barnawi as Boko Haram’s leader in August 2016 following apparent internal dissatisfaction with Shekau’s leadership. Shekau disputed this decision and rejected al-Barnawi as the new leader, resulting in the development of two factions.  Shekau reverted to using the group name Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, and continues to command a faction of loyalists operating separately to those remaining in Islamic State in West Africa.

Membership

Boko Haram’s total membership is estimated at around 1500, with members originating chiefly from north eastern Nigeria and neighbouring regions.

Recruitment and funding

Boko Haram exploits poor economic and social conditions in north eastern Nigeria and neighbouring regions to attract members. Recruits are drawn by Boko Haram's ability to provide economic prospects for its members and to avoid persecution by the group. Recruits also join Boko Haram through coercion from the group or pressure from associates and family members. The group bolsters its recruited 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 through criminal activities such as arms and human trafficking, extortion, bank robberies, looting and kidnap-for-ransom operations. The current state of financial ties with Islamic State or other terrorist groups is unclear.

Links to other terrorist organisations

The current state of Boko Haram’s links with Islamic State is uncertain. Although Shekau did not rescind his pledge of allegiance following Islamic State’s appointment of al-Barnawi as the leader of Islamic State in West Africa in August 2016, he did not renew its pledge upon the appointment of a new Islamic State leader after the death of Baghdadi in October 2019.

Boko Haram had historical ties with al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb and al-Shabaab but these are no longer current due to Boko Haram’s more recent alignment with Islamic State.

Links to Australia

There are no known links between Boko Haram and Australia.

Threats to Australian interests

Boko Haram has not made statements specifically threatening Australians or Australian interests; however, the group has issued statements threatening Westerners and Western interests in general.

Listed by the United Nations or like-minded countries

Nigeria proscribed Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation under Nigerian law in May 2013. This was followed by the United Kingdom in July 2013, the United States in November 2013, Canada in December 2013 and New Zealand in March 2014. The ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida United Nations Security Council Committee listed Boko Haram as an entity subject to sanctions in the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List on 22 May 2014.

Engagement in peace or mediation processes

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

Conclusion

On the basis of the above information, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation 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:

  • 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;
  • are intended to have those effects;
  • are done with the intention of advancing Boko Haram's political, religious or ideological causes;
  • 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.