Boko Haram insurgency

The Boko Haram insurgency began in July 2009,[76] when the jihadist group Boko Haram started an armed rebellion against the government of Nigeria.[77] The conflict takes place within the context of long-standing issues of religious violence between Nigeria's Muslim and Christian communities, and the insurgents' ultimate aim is to establish an Islamic state in the region.[78]

Boko Haram insurgency
Part of religious violence in Nigeria,
military intervention against ISIL and the War on terror

Niger Army soldiers during an operation against Boko Haram in March 2015 (top)
Nigerian CJTF militiamen in 2015 (bottom)
Date26 July 2009 – present
(12 years, 1 month and 3 weeks)
Northeast Nigeria Northern Cameroon (from 2012)
Southeast Niger (from 2014)
Western Chad (from 2014)[1]

Ongoing (Map of the current military situation)


Multinational Joint Task Force

Local militias and vigilantes[6]

  • CJTF,[7] BOYES[8] (in Nigeria)
  • Comités de vigilance (in Cameroon and Chad)[9]
  • Dan banga (in Niger)[10]

Foreign mercenaries[11]

Boko Haram (partially aligned with ISIL from 2015)[lower-alpha 1]

Islamic State's West Africa Province (originally Barnawi faction of Boko Haram; from 2016)[37][38]
Ansaru[lower-alpha 2]
Supported by:

 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (from 2015)[32]
Commanders and leaders

Muhammadu Buhari
Goodluck Jonathan (2010–2015)
Umaru Yar'Adua (2009–2010)
Ibrahim Geidam (2007–2009)
Ali Modu Sheriff (2009–11)
Kashim Shettima (2011–present)
Isa Yuguda (2007–2015)
Paul Biya (2014–present)
Mahamat Déby Itno (2021–present)
Idriss Déby  (2015–2021)

Mahamadou Issoufou (2014–2021)

Boko Haram
Abubakar Shekau [49]
Mohammed Yusuf 
Mallam Sanni Umaru[50]
Bakura Sahalaba[49]

Abu Musab al-Barnawi [51][52]
Ba Idrisa (MIA)[53][54]
Bo Lawan ("Lawan Abubakar")[53]


Abubakar Adam Kambar [55]
Khalid al-Barnawi (POW)[56][57]
Abu Jafa'ar[58]

Nigerian Army:
130,000 active frontline personnel;
32,000 active reserve personnel
Nigeria Police Force:
371,800 officers
Multinational Joint Task Force:
7,500 active personnel[14]
(excluding Cameroon and Nigeria)
Cameroonian Armed Forces:
20,000 active personnel
300 U.S. advisers[27][28]

Militias and vigilantes: Unknown, several tens of thousands[59]

  • 26,000 in Borno state[60]
Thousands[lower-alpha 3]
4,000–10,000[61][62] (overall)
c. 5,000 (ISIL loyalists, Barnawi faction)[61]
c. 1,000 (Shekau faction)[61]
c. 3,000 (ISIL loyalists, Barnawi faction)[63]
c. 1,000 (Shekau faction)[64]
c. 5,000–18,000 (ISIL loyalists)[65]
Casualties and losses
Unknown Thousands killed, captured, and surrendered[66][67][68][69][70][71]

350,000 deaths total, of which 35,000 direct[72]

2,400,000 internally displaced[73][74][75]

Boko Haram's initial uprising failed, and its leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed by the Nigerian government.[79] The movement consequently fractured into autonomous groups and started an insurgency, though rebel commander Abubakar Shekau managed to achieve a kind of primacy among the insurgents. Though challenged by internal rivals, such as Abu Usmatul al-Ansari's Salafist conservative faction and the Ansaru faction, Shekau became the insurgency's de facto leader and mostly kept the different Boko Haram factions from fighting each other, instead focusing on overthrowing the Nigerian government.[80] Supported by other jihadist organizations including al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab, Shekau's tactics were marked by extreme brutality and explicit targeting of civilians.

After years of fighting, the insurgents became increasingly aggressive, and started to seize large areas in northeastern Nigeria. The violence escalated dramatically in 2014, with 10,849 deaths, while Boko Haram drastically expanded its territories.[81][82][83][84] At the same time, the insurgency spread to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, thus becoming a major regional conflict.[85] Meanwhile, Shekau attempted to improve his international standing among Jihadists by tacitly aligning with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in March 2015, with Boko Haram becoming the "Islamic State's West Africa Province" (ISWAP).

The insurgents were driven back during the 2015 West African offensive by a Nigeria-led coalition of African and Western states, forcing the Islamists to retreat into Sambisa Forest and bases at Lake Chad. Discontent about various issues consequently grew among Boko Haram. Dissidents among the movement allied themselves with ISIL's central command and challenged Shekau's leadership, resulting in a violent split of the insurgents. Since then, Shekau and his group are generally referred to as "Boko Haram", whereas the dissidents continued to operate as ISWAP under Abu Musab al-Barnawi. The two factions consequently fought against each other while waging insurgencies against the local governments. After a period of reversals, Boko Haram and ISWAP launched new offensives in 2018 and 2019, again growing in strength.

When Boko Haram's insurgency was at its peak in the mid-2010s, it was the world's deadliest terrorist group, in terms of the number of people it killed.[86][87][88] In a bid to ensure dialog between government and the deadly sect, the President Jonathan administration set up a committee to grant an amnesty to the Boko Haram sect.[89][90] Some details of the amnesty includes granting of pardons to Boko Haram fighters and also listening to clamour from different ethnic groups under the sect with a bid to ending the violence perpetrated by the deadly sect. This amnesty was rejected by the sect in an audio broadcast that was sent by its leader on the grounds that they are fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north and that it is the government that is committing atrocities against Muslims.[91]