Formed in 2002, Boko Haram is concentrated in the northern, Muslim-majority states of Nigeria.
Boko Haram a nickname for a group which is actually called, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad meaning People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.
In the Hausa language, spoken in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram means “Western education is sacrilege”
Like the Taliban, the group has been attacking police and state officials who do not adhere to their strict interpretation of Islam, as well as Christian churches.
Its followers have begun to pray in separate mosques in cities including Maiduguri, Kano and Sokoto, and wear long beards and red or black headscarves.
The group, which advocates shariah law in order to rid the country of corruption, came to prominence in 2009, when its members rioted and burned police stations near its base of Maiduguri, a northeastern city on the edge of the Sahara Desert, and in nearby Bauchi.
25 Dec 2011
The group’s charismatic leader Mohammed Yusuf was captured by Nigerian security forces and shot dead in police detention some hours later as part of raids on the group’s base that killed 700.
The following year Abubakar Shekau, a former deputy leader, appeared in a video and claimed leadership of the group, adding that he was ready to launch attacks on Western influences in Nigeria.
Gunmen set free about 700 inmates from a federal prison in Bauchi in September 2010, helping revive the group’s fortunes.
Their technique of launching hit-and-run assassinations from the back of motorbikes has developed into using car bombs and even suicide bombers.
Last Christmas Eve, a series of bomb blasts around Jos killed 32 people, and others died in attacks on two churches in the northeast of the country.
The group’s major attacks this year include a car bomb in a car park outside Nigeria’s police headquarters in Abuja, which killed at least two people on June 16.
Other attacks were launched on the Maiduguri International Hotel, a beer garden in Maiduguri which killed about 25 people, and on the First Bank and Union Bank in Gombi.
Their most significant attack to date occurred on August 26 when a suicide bomber struck the UN building in Abuja, killing at least 23 people and injuring 76 and gutting the ground floor of the building.
It was the group’s first known suicide attack and was launched against a significant Western target suggesting their campaign was developing an international dimension.
Boko Haram later released a suicide video by a 27-year-old man from Maiduguru in which he referred to the UN as a “forum of all the global evil” and praised Osama bin Laden.
As the wave of violence escalated, at least 65 people were killed in gun and bomb attacks on government buildings in the city of Damaturu on November 4 and in a suicide attack in Maiduguri.
The group has fractured into three factions but has increased links with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), across the border in Niger and Chad, and with al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked group in Somalia.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said in July that the threat to Britain came not just from al-Qaeda’s core leadership itself, but also from associated groups including Boko Haram.
Security sources have told the Daily Telegraph, the group has recently gained expertise from AQIM and al-Shabaab and has adopted an increasingly internationalist outlook.