The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) is releasing updated resources on Boko Haram and ISIS following Boko Haram’s swearing of allegiance to ISIS. While small extremist groups in Libya, Algeria, Egypt, and Afghanistan have pledged fidelity to ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate, Boko Haram is the best-known and largest extremist group to align itself with ISIS.
Boko Haram is a Salafist Islamist terrorist group based in Nigeria. Its name, meaning “Western education is sin,” is based on the group’s strong rejection of Western education as corrupt. The group’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was a trained Salafist and follower of Ibn Taymiyya, a 14th century scholar who preached Islamic fundamentalism. The group, which hopes to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, is currently led by Abubakar Shekau. In the past five years, the group has killed an estimated 18,000 people, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and displaced more than a million people in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram now controls an area roughly the size of Belgium. The group reportedly relies on a combination of local funding sources and lucrative criminal activities, such as bank robberies, protection, and kidnapping for ransom, to finance its operations.
An outgrowth of the al-Qaeda–affiliated Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), ISIS has flourished in the midst of the Syrian civil war, recruiting more than 20,000 fighters from around the world. ISIS’s territory has expanded from eastern Syria to include parts of northern and western Iraq. In June 2014 the group proclaimed the areas it controls as a caliphate, governed by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph. ISIS’s goal is to expand its caliphate throughout Iraq and al-Sham (“the Levant” or “Greater Syria”), and eventually worldwide, focusing primarily on regions formerly under Islamic control, including the Iberian Peninsula and large parts of central and southern Asia. ISIS funds itself through extortion, robbery, human trafficking, and the oil industry.
Learn more about the financing, leadership, doctrine, history, and violent activities of Boko Haram, ISIS, and other extremist groups at counterextremism.com.
For requests for interviews, please contact CEP at [email protected].