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What Is Boko Haram?

A screen grab from a video of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau delivering a message, Jan. 20, 2015.

Boko Haram is an Islamic sect that believes politics in northern Nigeria has been seized by a group of corrupt, false Muslims, according to United States Institute of Peace.

Its members want to create an Islamic caliphate ruled by sharia law in northeastern Nigeria.

Background details

  • Group is based in northeastern city of Maiduguri.
  • Its self-proclaimed leader is Abubakar Shekau.
  • Group began in 2002 as a non-violent Islamist splinter group.
  • It launched an uprising in 2009, and since 2010 has killed nearly 20,000 people.
  • Its seven-year insurgency has displaced nearly 2 million people and left nearly 1 million children with little or no access to an education.
  • Amnesty International said about 2,000 children have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2014. Many are used as sex slaves, fighters and suicide bombers.
  • Boko Haram translates to "Western education is sinful."
  • In March 2015, Boko Haram affiliates itself with the Islamic State group.