Since Boko Haram’s[1] first attack on Bauchi prison in September 2010, the group has adopted increasingly sophisticated tactics to advance its goal of carving out an Islamic state in some parts or all of northern Nigeria. In the lead-up to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s inauguration in May 2011, the group employed motorcycle drive-by assassinations against religious and political leaders. In June and August 2011, it conducted vehicle suicide bombings at the Federal Police Headquarters and UN Headquarters in Abuja. In November 2011 and January 2012, it executed coordinated attacks involving more than 100 militants and suicide bombers in urban centers such as Damaturu and Kano. By early 2013, groups of 200-300 militants raided border towns in Borno State using pickup trucks equipped for desert fighting.[2]

Continuing on this evolution, one of Boko Haram’s latest tactics is kidnapping. Perhaps less sophisticated than other tactics, kidnapping has become one of the group’s primary funding sources, a way to extract concessions from the Nigerian state and other governments, and a threat to foreigners and Nigerian government officials.[3] Before Boko Haram adopted the tactic in February 2013, kidnappings, especially involving foreigners, were rare in northern Nigeria and almost unheard of in Boko Haram’s main base in Borno.[4] From February to June 2013, however, more than 20 Nigerian government officials and civilians and seven foreigners were kidnapped in Borno.

This article analyzes Boko Haram’s motives for kidnapping and its two claimed operations between February and June 2013, the more than a dozen other kidnappings in Borno that the group did not claim, and whether the kidnappings provide evidence that members from the splinter group Ansaru[5]—known for its kidnapping operations—are reintegrating into Boko Haram. Finally, the article discusses how kidnappings may undermine local and international initiatives to counter the “socioeconomic malaise”[6] and security crisis in northern Nigeria and be a harbinger of greater collaboration between Boko Haram, Ansaru, and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).[7]

The article presents evidence that Ansaru may be operating with Boko Haram in Borno and that Ansaru has benefited from Boko Haram’s control of territory, manpower and grassroots connections, while Boko Haram may be benefiting from the networks and skills that Ansaru’s members developed from training and operating with al-Qa`ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and MUJAO members in the Sahel.

Kidnapping Motives and Operations
Boko Haram’s decision to carry out kidnappings, particularly of women and children, possibly came in response to the Nigerian government’s detention of Boko Haram family members. In 2012, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau repeatedly accused the Nigerian government of “kidnapping” the wives of Boko Haram members and threatened to kidnap the wives and children of government officials in response to the “mistreatment” of women.[8] Shekau’s spokesman also threatened that Boko Haram would kidnap the family members of government officials if the government continued to arrest relatives of Boko Haram members who were not engaged in the “ongoing jihad.”[9]

This specific issue likely resonated with Boko Haram because many of the women and children detained by the security forces in 2012 were related to high-ranking Boko Haram members, including Shekau’s wife and children.[10] While Boko Haram offered money to al-majiri[11] youths to track the movements of the security forces, transport guns, and burn down schools and churches, there is little evidence that Boko Haram employed women in operations.[12] Therefore, many of the detained women were likely taken into custody to put pressure on their husbands or male relatives in Boko Haram.[13]

Claimed Operations
Boko Haram did not act on its kidnapping threats until February 19, 2013, when it kidnapped a seven-member French family in northern Cameroon and transferred the family to Boko Haram-controlled areas in Borno. On March 19, in the second video showing the family, Shekau said, “We are holding them hostage because the leaders of Cameroon and Nigeria detained our women and children under inhumane conditions.”[14] One month later, on April 19, after secret negotiations between Shekau and the Cameroonian government (through intermediaries), Boko Haram released the family near the Cameroonian border in exchange for a $3 million ransom and the release of 16 Boko Haram prisoners held in Cameroon.[15]

Boko Haram carried out its second claimed kidnapping on May 7, when it captured 12 women and children from a police barracks after a battle with the security forces in the border town of Bama.[16] On May 14, Shekau appeared in a split-screen video showing the hostages and warned that if the security forces “do not release our wives and children, we will not release theirs,” and that the hostages would become his “servants.”[17] Nine of the hostages were either released by Boko Haram or, according to official reports, “rescued” by the security forces on May 24, one day after President Jonathan issued a directive that 90 women and children “in detention on suspicion of involvement” with Boko Haram would be freed from prison.[18] Like Shekau’s negotiations for the release of the French family, there are suspicions that he may have negotiated with the Nigerian government for an exchange.

Unclaimed Kidnappings
The dozens of other kidnappings in Borno from February 2013 until June 2013 went unclaimed, but were carried out according to a pattern. Virtually all of the kidnapping victims were mid-level officials, or their relatives, who were not wealthy enough to have security details, but could afford modest ransoms of about $10,000.[19] They included the manager of the Maiduguri Flour Mills, a lecturer at University of Maiduguri, a customs officer and six members of his family, a local government chairman, a divisional police officer, a criminal investigator, the manager of the Borno Water Board and his Christian friend who was beheaded, the brother of the shehu of Bama, the mother of a Borno House of Assembly member, the parents of a Borno House of Parliament member, and the father of the Borno commissioner for women affairs.[20] The highest-profile incident was the kidnapping of 92-year-old Ali Monguno, a Borno Elders’ Forum member and father of a senior general in the Nigerian army, who was seized outside a mosque in Maiduguri and released three days later near the Cameroonian border after a ransom of $320,000 was paid.[21]

The series of kidnappings started when some Boko Haram members, including Chadians and Nigeriens, returned to Borno after the French military intervention in Mali in January 2013 and brought with them newly acquired pickup trucks, heavy weapons, bomb-making expertise and combat experience in desert warfare.[22] Within weeks, Boko Haram attempted to overrun border towns in Borno. The group raided and stole weapons from a military barracks in Monguno on March 3, fought the Nigerian army in a two-day battle in Baga that left more than 185 people dead on April 16, destroyed most government buildings, schools, hospitals and telecom towers in Marte on May 3, and broke into a prison in Bama, freeing 50 members, on May 7.[23] These attacks forced local officials to leave their posts in more than 10 Local Government Areas of Borno bordering Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, which enabled Boko Haram to become the de facto authority.[24] Boko Haram recruited and taxed locals, set up roadblocks, replaced Nigerian flags with Islamic ones, used schools as headquarters, and received weapons, such as anti-aircraft guns, with the help of corrupt customs officials, while the kidnappers were able to hold their hostages in the border region without government interference.[25]

Boko Haram did not claim the kidnappings of government officials in Borno, but Nigerian intelligence officials believed the kidnappers of Ali Monguno and the other incidents were likely Boko Haram members, while Nigeria’s Joint Task Force said Boko Haram resorted to kidnapping-for-ransom because it is more lucrative and less dangerous than bank robberies.[26]

Ansaru’s Possible Reintegration
Although Boko Haram did not claim responsibility for many of the kidnappings, the reliance on Boko Haram-controlled areas in the border region for holding the hostages and the fact that Boko Haram never issued a statement to disassociate itself from them suggest that the group was complicit and possibly provided the kidnappers with protection in return for a share of the ransoms.[27] This would resemble the agreement that Shekau may have made with AQIM-linked operative Khalid al-Barnawi and the AQIM-trained Boko Haram commander for Kaduna, Abu Muhammed.[28] According to that past agreement, al-Barnawi and Abu Muhammed reportedly agreed to carry out kidnappings of foreigners in Nigeria in return for protection from Boko Haram.[29] The funding for these kidnappings likely came from AQIM-affiliated Algerian militants, who offered Boko Haram men, arms, and training to “defend” Muslims in Nigeria—as promised by AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel (also known as Abu Mus`ab al-Wadud) to Boko Haram in 2010—in exchange for Boko Haram transferring the foreigners to the Algerians.[30]

Abu Muhammed went on to command—against Shekau’s orders—the Boko Haram breakaway cell “al-Qa`ida in the Lands Beyond the Sahel.”[31] The cell kidnapped a British and Italian hostage in Kebbi in May 2011 and killed the two hostages during a rescue operation in Sokoto in March 2012. This was one month after Ansaru—widely speculated to be under the leadership of Khalid al-Barnawi—announced its formation (possibly on the advice of Droukdel to obscure its ties to AQIM by not including “al-Qa`ida” in its name).[32] It seems likely that Abu Muhammed’s and Khalid al-Barnawi’s splinter groups disagreed with Boko Haram about how to share funds from the Algerians, as well as Shekau’s acceptance of civilian deaths, preference for attacking Nigerian targets (rather than international ones), and possibly his favoritism of Kanuris (Borno’s main ethnic group).[33]

The French-led invasion of northern Mali may have compelled Ansaru to rejoin Boko Haram, which could explain why Ansaru has not conducted any attacks since February 2013. As a result of the intervention, AQIM-affiliated Algerian commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar has been in hiding and possibly retreated toward southern Libya, while another AQIM Algerian commander, Abu Zeid, was killed in northern Mali.[34] Both commanders trained and carried out attacks with Nigerians who later became Ansaru members.[35] Authorities also killed or arrested the couriers from Ansaru and Boko Haram in Nigeria to AQIM and MUJAO in Mali.[36] Ansaru’s vital connections to AQIM and MUJAO members may have been severed.

Now that Ansaru is increasingly isolated from AQIM and MUJAO, the group would logically benefit from kidnapping-for-ransom in Borno—which is Khalid al-Barnawi’s native state[37]—to sustain itself financially. The security of Boko Haram’s safe havens would also reduce Ansaru’s paranoia about Nigerian or European security forces raiding its hideouts, as occurred in Kaduna, where Abu Muhammed was killed, as well as in Sokoto, Kano, and, according to Ansaru, almost again in Bauchi in February 2013.[38] Since many foreign employees left northern Nigeria after Ansaru killed seven foreign engineers that it kidnapped in Bauchi in March 2013,[39] Ansaru may have few options but to kidnap Nigerians in Borno, as opposed to its preferred target: foreigners.[40]

Evidence of Ansaru’s Presence in Borno
There are several signs of a new Ansaru focus on Borno, and they suggest that Ansaru members might be reintegrating into Boko Haram. First, in Ansaru’s only statement about an attack that it did not claim, the group “condemned the massacre of 300 Muslims” during Boko Haram’s battle with the Nigerian security forces in Baga, Borno State, on April 16, and called for revenge on the “crusaders and the United Nations.”[41] Second, in Boko Haram’s proof-of-life video with the French family, who were in Cameroon because the father worked for an engineering firm, an Arabic-speaking militant said that the operation was retaliation for the president of France’s “war on Islam” in Mali. This is a theme, language, and kidnapping victim profile associated with Ansaru, not Boko Haram.[42] Third, Nigeria’s Joint Task Force said in April 2013 that Boko Haram tasked a “special kidnapping squad” to carry out kidnappings of government officials, foreigners and wealthy individuals in Borno.[43] The knowledge transfer from Ansaru members to Boko Haram could explain the emergence of this group, since Boko Haram did not carry out any kidnappings until this “special kidnapping squad” was formed. Fourth, Ansaru’s areas of operations have been converging with Boko Haram’s since late 2012 and could have reached Borno. Ansaru’s attack on a prison in Abuja in November 2012, ambush of Nigerian troops preparing to deploy to Mali in Kogi State in January 2013, and killing of seven foreigners in Bauchi State in February 2013 show that Ansaru cells moved toward Boko Haram’s bases in northeastern Nigeria.[44]

Finally, despite past disagreements between Ansaru’s suspected leader Khalid al-Barnawi and Shekau, mid-level members still operate between both groups and have put aside Ansaru’s and Boko Haram’s ideological differences.[45] In June 2012, Ansaru’s spokesman confirmed that Ansaru “complements” its “brothers” in Boko Haram and that they have the same mission and ideology—but with different leaders—and the same enemies: Nigerian security officials and Christians.[46] In addition, in November 2012, Ansaru showed it shared Boko Haram’s core grievances when it attacked the Special Anti-Robbery Squad prison in Abuja, freeing dozens of Boko Haram members, and stressed that one of them was a “woman who was detained for six months.”[47] Shekau has also repeatedly distanced himself from Ansaru’s claims that Boko Haram kills Muslim civilians, by blaming the Nigerian government for civilian deaths.[48] Moreover, although Boko Haram is Borno-focused and Ansaru is Sokoto Caliphate-focused,[49] on the international level they both see themselves as pillars in the international jihad, with separate references to al-Qa`ida in Iraq’s late amir, Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi, the “powerless” jihadists in Syria against “the enemy Bashar,” and Muslims fighting against America’s “Crusader War.”[50]

There may also be new factions emerging in Borno, which are loyal to Shekau and comprised of members of Ansaru, Boko Haram and other militants who returned to Nigeria from northern Mali. For instance, the raid on the barracks in Monguno, also in Borno, on March 3, employed pickup trucks and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, which are characteristic of militants who fought in Mali, and eight motorcycles, which are typical of Boko Haram.[51] The raid in Monguno, which was similar to MUJAO’s suicide operation using pickup trucks on a military barracks in Agadez, Niger, on May 23, 2013, was claimed in a video featuring 50 militants, including a veiled Hausa and Arabic-speaking leader, who displayed weapons he claimed were stolen from the barracks and said the militants would attack more barracks. The leader, however, did not identify himself as a member of Boko Haram or Ansaru, but as a new group, Nassiruddeen Li Ahlil Jihad Alal Kitab Was Sunna (Islamic Victors Committed to the Qur’an and Sunna). He called on “Muslim youths” to fight not “in the name of any sect, clan, or country,” but to “impose Islam over unbelievers,” and referred to Shekau’s leadership at the end of the video.[52]  Three weeks later, Shekau claimed the attacks in Baga and Bama in the name of Boko Haram and said that “our members went to Monguno and easily invaded the army barracks.”[53]

The distinction between Ansaru and Boko Haram may be increasingly less defined given that Ansaru was defined by its connections to AQIM and MUJAO, and Boko Haram gained similar connections while its members were in northern Mali.[54]

Specter of Boko Haram Hangs Over Northeast Nigeria
Even with heavy weapons, combat experience, and millions of dollars in ransom money, Boko Haram cannot withstand the more powerful Nigerian army’s offensive that accelerated with President Jonathan’s declaration of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states on May 14, 2013. Boko Haram’s leaders and most-skilled members will retreat to other states in Nigeria or to neighboring countries in the Sahel, where they may find the support of militants with whom they fought in northern Mali in 2012.[55] The Ansaru and Boko Haram members who trained or fought with MUJAO and AQIM members in Algeria, Mali and other Sahelian countries will likely serve as a bridge between Boko Haram’s grassroots members and MUJAO in Niger, especially new recruits who joined Boko Haram as a result of the Nigerian army offensive in Borno.[56] This could lead to the further regionalization of Boko Haram and allow its members to train and carry out operations while they are based outside of Nigeria. Since MUJAO and AQIM members were key forces behind Boko Haram’s first attack on an international target—the UN Headquarters in Abuja on August 26, 2011—they could work with Boko Haram to orchestrate a similar attack.[57] MUJAO could also benefit from connections to Boko Haram in Borno’s border region to expand southward toward Chad to exact revenge for Chad’s role in Mali and the killing of Abu Zeid.[58]

With Boko Haram’s safe havens in Borno now under government control, Ansaru, which like MUJAO has no established geographic base, may move into hostile terrain in predominantly Christian southern Nigeria or, more likely, live up to its name and launch operations in “Black Africa” with MUJAO. MUJAO threatened to expand into Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal on May 24, 2013, after it carried out suicide attacks on a French uranium mine in Arlit, Niger, and on the military barracks in Agadez, Niger, jointly with Belmokhtar’s forces in retaliation for Abu Zeid’s death and Niger’s support of France’s “war on Shari`a” in Mali.[59]

The June 1, 2013, attack on a prison in Niamey, Niger’s capital, that freed 22 prisoners, including a long-time AQIM member, and may have intended to free several detained Boko Haram members, was the type of attack that Boko Haram has carried out dozens of times in northern Nigeria and could have been the first sign of collaboration between Boko Haram, Ansaru and MUJAO.[60] The imprisonment of Boko Haram members with MUJAO and AQIM members could also help to integrate their groups if members are released from prison or in hostage exchanges, or by prison breaks.

Within Nigeria, the recent kidnappings in Borno may further deter foreign governments from establishing consulates in northern Nigeria, especially given AQIM’s role in attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in September 2012,[61] the French Consulate in Algiers in January 2013, and the UN Headquarters in Abuja in August 2011.[62] NGOs in northern Nigeria will also likely be deterred, especially since Boko Haram-inspired militants killed nine anti-polio workers in February 2013.[63] Western multinational corporations are scaling back operations in northern Nigeria because of the kidnapping threat, while a series of robberies and murders of Chinese, North Koreans, Indians and Nepalese in Kano and Borno may deter Asian entrepreneurs from investing in the north.[64] The oil resources on Borno’s border with Lake Chad could be a source for Borno’s development, but will likely remain untapped because of Boko Haram’s presence in the region.[65]Other projects in the Lake Chad region may also be threatened by Boko Haram, Ansaru and MUJAO, such as locally controversial Chinese oil operations in Diffa, Niger, which is located five miles from Borno’s border.[66] Diffa is also where the majority of the 9,000 refugees from Borno, including possibly some Boko Haram members, are fleeing.[67] Finally, southern Nigerians will be hesitant to conduct business in northern Nigeria because of the Boko Haram-inspired suicide vehicle bombings of Lagos-bound transportation in Kano’s Christian neighborhood in March 2013 and other attacks on Christian traders in Borno.[68] The government’s strategy to “cripple” Boko Haram has also affected infrastructure in Borno, with the closure of roads, border posts and telecom systems, and the banning of commercial trucks—which are all vital to the business community.[69]

The security crisis in northern Nigeria is one that the Nigerian government and northern Nigerians will have to minimize by addressing certain root issues, such as the al-majiri students and other unemployed youths who are prime recruits for Boko Haram; the policy of detaining women relatives of Boko Haram members, which triggers a backlash from Boko Haram that may resonate with northern Nigerians; Ansaru’s and Boko Haram’s ideology, which seeks to delegitimize the Nigerian state and Islamic leaders who cooperate with the “Christian” government and promises to “restore the dignity” of Nigerian Muslims in an Islamic state; tactics to engage Boko Haram militarily in the small towns of Borno without causing significant collateral damage, which alienates the population, regardless of whether the military or Boko Haram was responsible; and, finally, when to end the state of emergency.

Regional cooperation, however, may be a complex issue for Nigeria, since West African countries historically have resisted allying with a regionally dominant Nigeria and now worry that Boko Haram will retaliate against them if they cooperate with Nigeria, as Boko Haram has done in Cameroon and Niger.[70] Chad also has memories of 2008, when 1,000 militants in a convoy of 300 vehicles—not much larger than Boko Haram’s current forces—coming from Darfur almost reached N’Djamena, which is only 60 miles from Borno. Chad’s President Deby now sees a dual threat from Boko Haram and militants in northern Niger, while Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou and President Deby have both expressed concerns about training camps in southern Libya, where Sahelian militants are “regrouping.”[71] Until a coherent local, sub-regional, and regional strategy is developed and implemented, Boko Haram and allied militant groups will likely continue to exploit the porous borders and leadership vacuum in West Africa.

Jacob Zenn is an analyst of African and Eurasian affairs for The Jamestown Foundation. He authored “Northern Nigeria’s Boko Haram: The Prize in al-Qaeda’s Africa Strategy,” published by Jamestown in November 2012, and conducted field research in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon in June 2012. He speaks Arabic, French and Swahili.

[1] Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful” in the Hausa language. The group prefers to be known as Jama`at Ahl al-Sunna li al-Da`wa wa al-Jihad, meaning “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” in Arabic.

[2] “Boko Haram Leaders Flee Hot Mali to Nigeria,” The Nation, January 31, 2013; Sudarsan Raghavan, “Nigerian Islamist Militants Return from Mali With Weapons, Skills,” Washington Post, May 31, 2013.

[3] Heather Murdock, “Boko Haram’s Funding Remains ‘Elusive,’” Voice of America, May 22, 2013.

[4] There was one kidnapping of a Canadian researcher in Kaduna in 2009, who was rescued after two weeks; no kidnappings of foreigners in 2010; one kidnapping of a British and Italian engineer in Kebbi in May 2011; a kidnapping of a German engineer in Kano in January 2012, which was claimed by AQIM, but carried out by a cell connected to Ansaru; and a kidnapping of a French engineer in Katsina by Ansaru in December 2012, who was likely transferred to Niger or Mali. See “Kaduna Kidnap – How Canadian Was Rescued,” Daily Trust, May 1, 2009. For details on the other kidnappings, see Jacob Zenn, “Cooperation or Competition: Boko Haram and Ansaru After the Mali Intervention,” CTC Sentinel 6:3 (2013).

[5] Ansaru also refers to itself as JAMBS, the acronym for Jama`at Ansar al-Muslimin fi Bilad al-Sudan. In Arabic, this means “Supporters of the Muslims in the Land of Black Africans.” For more details on Ansaru, see Zenn.

[6] On “socioeconomic malaise” in Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon, see Uyo Salifu, “Border Porosity and Boko Haram as a Regional Threat,” Institute for Security Studies [Pretoria], May 28, 2012.

[7] In Arabic, MUJAO’s name is Jama`at Tawhid wa’l-Jihad fi Garbi Afriqiya.

[8] Abubakar Shekau, Message to President Jonathan 1, Abubakar Shekau, January 11, 2012, available at; Abubakar Shekau, Message to President Jonathan 2, Abubakar Shekau, January 26, 2012, available at; Abubakar Shekau, Message to the World, Abubakar Shekau, September 30, 2012, available at

[9] James Bwala, “We May Start Kidnapping Govt, Security Officials’ Relations – Boko Haram,” Nigerian Tribune, January 30, 2012.

[10] This also included the wife and five children of the group’s captured commander for Kano, the wife of the captured commander for Sokoto, the wife of the vehicle suicide bomber who attacked This Day media house in Abuja, and more than 100 other women and children. See Njadvara Musa, “JTF Releases Shekau’s Wife, 22 Others in Yobe,” The Guardian [Lagos], June 14, 2013; “Kabiru Sokoto’s Wife Delivers Baby in Police Cell,” Vanguard, April 6, 2013; Yusufu Idegu, “Boko Haram: Wife of Suspected ThisDay Bomber Arrested,” The Nation, May 20, 2012; Kolade Adeyemi, “Yoruba Boko Haram Leader, Wife, Kids Arrested,” The Nation, May 12, 2012; Taiwo Adisa, “Shekau, Boko Haram Leader, Escapes Arrest in Kano – Wife Arrested,” Nigerian Tribune, March 5, 2012; Adelani Adepegba and Jude Owuamanam, “SSS Arrests Boko Haram Leader’s Wife, Son,” Punch, December 15, 2011; Ike Abonyi, “Abu Qaqa: Boko Haram Members Marry Wives of Suicide Bombers,” This Day, February 14, 2012.

[11] Al-majiri (literally meaning “migrants,” derived from the Arabic word muhajir) are Islamic students who beg for alms in return for shelter and Qur’anic lessons from local leaders. There are millions of al-majiri students in northern Nigeria, with many in Kano and Borno. See “Al Majiri Education: Journey to Nowhere,” Vanguard, April 19, 2012.

[12] Yusuf Alli, “We Were Paid N5,000 to Burn Schools – Freed Boko Haram Kids,” The Nation, June 1, 2013; “Nigerian Troops Arrest Boko Haram Recruiter, Nab 49 Suspected Terrorists In Yobe-The Nation Newspaper,” Sahara Reporters, June 5, 2013.

[13] “Nigeria Detains Widows of Boko Haram Fighters,” al-Jazira, August 2, 2009; “Cameroonian Among Women Captured During Kano JTF Raid,” Premium Times, May 1, 2012.

[14] Hamza Idris, “Why We Abducted French Nationals – Shekau,” Daily Trust, March 19, 2013; Tansa Musa, “Kidnapped Family of Seven Released in Cameroon,” Reuters, April 19, 2013.

[15] “Nigeria’s Boko Haram ‘Got $3m Ransom’ to Free Hostages,” BBC, April 26, 2013.

[16] Ola Audu, “Nigerian Military to Continue Sambisa Forest Operation after Killing over 20 Boko Haram Suspects in Raid,” Premium Times, May 17, 2013.

[17] “Nigeria Islamist Video Claims Attacks, Shows Hostages,” Agence France-Presse, May 13, 2013.

[18] Chris Okocha et al., “Women, Children Detainees to be Released First, Says FG,” This Day, May 23, 2013; Senator Iroegbu, “JTF: ‘We’ve Rescued 9 Hostages Held by Boko Haram,’” This Day, May 25, 2013.

[19]  By virtue of the victims’ connection to a government that, in Shekau’s words, “rejects the Qur’an, the Prophet, and the religion of Allah in public life,” they were legitimate targets. See a sermon of “Mallam Abubakar Shekau” from before July 2009, available at

[20] Njadvara Musa, “Gunmen Kill Four, Kidnap Flour Mills’ Manager in Borno,” The Guardian [Lagos], February 13, 2013; Ndahi Marama, “Gunmen Kidnap Senior Lecturer in Maiduguri,” Vanguard, February 24, 2013; David Molomo, “Dead or Alive? Customs Officer, Wife, Five Kids, Cousin Missing for 22 Days,” Sun News,  April 29, 2013; Kareem Ogori, “Gunmen Kidnap Ex-Borno LG Boss, Demand N50m,” Blueprint, April 8, 2013; Njadvara Musa, “Gunmen Kidnap Ex-Council Chairman, Reject N10m Ransom,” The Guardian [Lagos], April 13, 2013; Maina Maina, “Gunmen Kidnap DPO in Bama, Set Town on Fire in Borno,” Daily Post, April 25, 2013; Yahaya Ibrahim, “Borno Water Board GM Kidnapped,” Daily Trust, April 29, 2013; “Kidnapped Policeman Killed by Abductors in Borno,” Vanguard, May 1, 2013; Ola Audu, “How Boko Haram Turned to Kidnapping to Raise Funds in Borno,” Premium Times, May 20, 2013.

[21] Yusuf Alli, “Boko Haram Kidnaps 92-yr-old Ex-Minister Ali Monguno,” The Nation, May 4, 2013; Ndahi Marama, “Kidnapped Monguno Regains Freedom After Payment of Ransom,” Vanguard, May 7, 2013.

[22] “Boko Haram Leaders Flee Hot Mali to Nigeria”; Sudarsan Raghavan, “Nigerian Islamist Militants Return from Mali with Weapons, Skills,” Washington Post, May 31, 2013; Kingsley Omonobi, “State of Emergency: More Nigeriens and Chadians Among Arrested Insurgents,” Vanguard, May 31, 2013; Kingsley Omonobi et al., “Military Bombards Terrorists’ Camps,” Vanguard, May 17, 2013; Kingsley Omonobi, “Boko Haram Seeks Help From Afghanistan, Others; Claims Victory over JTF,” Vanguard, May 28, 2013; “Islamic Terrorists Furious Over Recent Defeat,” Strategy Page, June 2, 2013.

[23] Ola Adu, “185 Killed in Borno Town, Baga, as Soldiers, Boko Haram Fight,” Premium Times, April 22, 2013; Ndahi Mara, “Gunmen in 50 Hilux Vans Destroy Buildings, Telecom Masts in Borno,” Vanguard, May 3, 2013; Kareem Ogori, “Boko Haram Raids Army Barracks, Kills 22,” Blueprint, March 4, 2013; Kingsley Omonobi, “Bama Attack: Boko Haram Plans to Overrun Barracks,” Vanguard, May 8, 2013.

[24] “Boko Haram Paralyses 10 Local Governments In Borno,” The Nation, April 20, 2013.

[25] Ibid.; Chris Agbambu, “How Boko Haram Declared No Fly Zone in Borno – Troops Foil Terrorists’ Attempt to Regroup,” Nigerian Tribune, May 28, 2013; Gbenga Akingbule Ijagba, “JTF Arrests Customs Officer Over Aiding Arms’ Importation,” Daily Newswatch, May 29, 2013; “Army Confirms Boko Haram Fire At Military Aircraft,” Channels TV, May 17, 2013; “Army Destroys Boko Haram’s Anti-Aircraft Guns In Borno,” Channels TV, May 17, 2013.

[26] Ola Adu, “48hrs After Kidnap: Boko Haram Reportedly Change Monguno’s Location,” Premium Times, May 5, 2013.

[27] Videos have emerged of up to 30 Boko Haram members driving in a convoy with the French family in the border region and up to 50 Boko Haram members training in the border region with heavy weapons. Given the reports about Boko Haram occupying and infiltrating villages throughout the border region and exercising de facto authority, it seems likely that any consistent illicit activity, from kidnapping to arms trafficking, would become known to Boko Haram in the border region and would require their consent.

[28] Abu Muhammed, like another U.S.-designated terrorist and Boko Haram member, Abubakar Adam Kambar, trained under Khalid al-Barnawi in an AQIM-run camp in Algeria. See “Barnawi, Kambar: Qaeda-linked Militants with Boko Haram Ties,” Agence France-Presse, June 21, 2012; Omololu Ogunmade, “Military Lays Claim to Killing Boko Haram Kingpin,” This Day, June 7, 2013. Kambar was reportedly killed by Nigerian security forces in Kano in August 2012.

[29] “Barnawi, Kambar: Qaeda-linked Militants with Boko Haram Ties.” That article stated, “Under the alliance, [Abu] Mohammad and his group were to carry out abductions for ransom, part of which would go toward financing Boko Haram operations. Boko Haram would in turn provide security cover for Mohammad’s group.”

[30] “Boko Haram Gets N40Million Donation From Algeria,” Sahara Reporters, May 13, 2012; “North Africa Qaeda Offers to Help Nigerian Muslims,” Reuters, February 1, 2010.

[31] “Barnawi, Kambar: Qaeda-linked Militants with Boko Haram Ties”; Yusuf Alli, “Kabiru Sokoto Names Boko Haram’s Leaders,” The Nation, February 14, 2012; Jide Ajani, “Horror in Sokoto – Al-Qaeda-Funded Group Killed Hostages,” Vanguard, March 11, 2012.

[32] Confidential letters written by Droukdel to Islamist militants in Mali, which were uncovered in Timbuktu by the Associated Press, said, “Better for you to be silent and pretend to be a ‘domestic’ movement…There is no reason for you to show that we have an expansionary, jihadi, al-Qaida or any other sort of project.” See “Al-Qaida’s Saharan Playbook,” Associated Press, February 15, 2013; “Boko Haram: Splinter Group, Ansaru Emerges,” Vanguard, February 1, 2012; Adam Nossiter, “New Threat in Nigeria as Militants Split Off,” New York Times, April 23, 2013. Similarly, as stated by Andrew Lebovich, “Belmokhtar and other elements of [AQIM] made the conscious decision to tone down their rhetoric [about Libya].” Belmokhtar feared the French were “desperate” to pull AQIM into a war that was not a priority of AQIM. See Andrew Lebovich, “AQIM’s Mokhtar Belmokhtar Speaks Out,” al-Wasat blog, November 21, 2011.

[33] Tobi Sonyi et al., “Kabiru Sokoto Trial – Sharing of Funds Split Boko Haram,” This Day, May 10, 2013; Yusuf Alli, “How Bombers are Chosen, by Boko Haram Suspect,” The Nation, February 9, 2012; Godwin Tsa, “How We Did It, Kabiru Sokoto Tells Court,” Sun News, May 14, 2013.

[34] “Judge’s Absence Stalls Trial of Mali-based Boko Haram Suspect,” Premium Times, May 8, 2013; “Ansar Dine Pursues Peace Talks, Mujao Names New Chief,” LeMag, January 3, 2012; “Mali: un Béninois à la tête d’une unité combattante, une katiba, dans le Nord,” Radio France Internationale, December 28, 2012; “Mali: retour sur les événements de la journée du 14 janvier,” Radio France Internationale, January 14, 2013; “Bilal Hicham, rebelle du nord du Mali,” Radio France Internationale, August 4, 2013; “Mali: à Gao, les islamistes recrutent en masse de jeunes Africains,” Le Parisien, July 7, 2012; “Niger Police Arrest 5 Suspected Boko Haram Members,” Vanguard, September 27, 2012; “Report of the Assessment Mission on the Impact of the Libyan Crisis on the Sahel Region,” UN Security Council, December 7-23, 2012.

[35] “Exclusif…Mort des deux otages occidentaux tués au Nigeria: Une source d’AQMI livre quelques details,” Agence Nouakchott d’Information, March 10, 2012; Nossiter.

[36] “Judge’s Absence Stalls Trial of Mali-based Boko Haram Suspect.”

[37] Al-Barnawi’s nisba of Barnawi (The Bornoan) indicates he is either from Borno or his descendants are from Borno. A nisba identifies a person’s place of origin, tribal affiliation or ancestry, and although it is traditionally an Arabic practice, it has been adopted by Muslims from West Africa to South Asia. Abubakar Shekau is also sometimes referred to as “ash-Shekawi” in Boko Haram videos, signifying that his nisba is to the village of Shekau in Yobe State. Most reports say al-Barnawi is from Nigeria, but some reports suggest he is from Niger. It is also unclear whether he is a Shuwa Arab of Borno, Kanuri, or another ethnicity.

[38] “Nigerian Extremists, Ansaru, Claims it Killed Seven Foreign Hostages Abducted in Bauchi,” Premium Times, March 9, 2013.

[39] “The Kidnap Fear,” Economist, February 23, 2013. According to that article, “The kidnapping is rattling foreigners working in Nigeria’s north. Total, a French oil company, has transferred the families of its staff from Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to Port Harcourt in the south…‘Any company operating in northern Nigeria will now be considering if it can have any expatriates working there,’ says a Western security expert.” Also see Heather Murdock, “Islamist Attacks Leading Northern Nigeria to Economic Disaster,” Global Post, February 26, 2013; “Setraco Shuts Down Operation in Bauchi,” The Guardian [Lagos], February 19, 2013.

[40] Suzan Edeh, “Bauchi Deadly Kidnapping: Gaping Bullet Holes in Expatriates’ Live Camp,” Vanguard, February 23, 2013; Moses Alao, “Islamist Group Kills 7 Foreigners Kidnapped in Bauchi,” Nigerian Tribune, March 10, 2013.

[41] “Ansar al-Muslimeen Condemns Massacre in Baga, Calls for Revenge,” SITE Intelligence Group, May 3, 2013.

[42] All of Ansaru’s kidnapping victims have worked for engineering companies. Ansaru said, for example, its kidnapping of a French engineer in Katsina in December 2012 was in response to France’s role in planning the intervention force to drive out AQIM and MUJAO from northern Mali and “the stance of the French government and the French people on Islam and Muslims,” in particular a law banning the use of headscarves. See “New Sect Claims Abduction of Frenchman in Katsina,” Peoples Daily [Abuja], December 25, 2013; “French Family Kidnapped in Cameroon,” February 26, 2013, available at: Also see the claim of MUJAO spokesman Abu Walid Sahraoui for the suicide bombings in Agadez and Arlit, Niger: “We attacked Niger Republic because of its co-operation with France in the war against Sharia.” For details, see John Alechenu, “New Terror Group Emerges,” Punch, May 26, 2013.

[43] Audu, “How Boko Haram Turned to Kidnapping to Raise Funds in Borno.”

[44] “Taking the Hostage Road,” Africa Confidential, March 15, 2013; “FG Places N50m Bounty on Boko Haram Leader,” Punch, November 24, 2012. Similarly, Boko Haram increasingly attacked Kano, Kaduna and Sokoto in 2012 and Katsina in 2013, and had a commander for Sokoto who was trained under al-Barnawi. This shows that Boko Haram has moved toward the core areas of the Sokoto Caliphate that Ansaru focuses on both ideologically and operationally, with its first cells based in Kaduna, Kebbi, and Sokoto.

[45] Nossiter. An Ansaru member said in an interview, “Whenever we hear of oppression, we do operations together.”

[46] “Security Officials and Christians Are Enemies of Islam and Muslims, We Will Target and Kill Them – Says Spokesman of Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina fi Biladi Sudan, Abu Ja’afar,” Desert Herald, June 5, 2012.

[47] Declared of Jama`atu Ansaril Muslimina Fibiladis sudan Garki II Abuja, November 30, 2012, available at

[48] Shekau said, for example, after the battle with the security forces in Baga, Borno, on April 16, 2013, that, “It was you, the security agents that went into town the following day and burnt homes and killed people at will.” See Michael Olugbode, “Boko Haram Calls JTF a Liar,” This Day, March 12, 2013; “ Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Baga, Bama Attacks,” The Sun, May 14, 2013.

[49] The Sokoto Caliphate lasted from 1804 until the British abolished the caliphate in 1903 and established the Northern Nigeria Protectorate. It was one of the largest states in Africa spanning most of modern-day northern Nigeria (with the exception of Borno), Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and southern Niger and influencing Islamic states in Senegal, Mali, Chad, and elsewhere. See Helen Chapin Metz ed., Nigeria: A Country Study (Washington, D.C.: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1991).

[50] “Innocence of the Mujahidin From the Blood of the Innocent Muslims,” Sanam al-Islam Network, May 14, 2013; “Boko Haram Denies Losing Nigeria Battle,” al-Jazira, May 30, 2013.

[51] Aminu Abubakar, “Twenty Islamists Killed in Northeast Nigeria,” Agence France-Presse, March 3, 2013.

[52] “Boko Haram Militants Shows Off Weapons ‘Captured’ From An Army Baracks,” Sahara TV, April 29, 2013; “Twenty Islamists Killed in Northeast Nigeria: Military”; “New Boko Haram Sect Emerges, Shows Off Large Cache Of Arms And Ammunitions,” Information Nigeria, May 2, 2013.

[53] “Boko Haram Claims Responsibility For Attacks In Baga, Bama; Promises More On The Way,” Sahara Reporters, May 13, 2013; “Boko Haram Latest Threats: Maiduguri JTF Spokesperson, Sagir Musa Responds,” Sahara Reporters, May 20, 2013.

[54] Zenn.

[55] “Close Associate of Boko Haram Leader, Shekau, Found Dead – Nigerian Military,” Premium Times, May 29, 2013; “Insurgents Regroup in Adamawa Mountains,” Punch, May 21, 2013; “JTF Claims Arrest of 49 Boko Haram,” Vanguard, June 5, 2013. A Nigerian Defense Ministry statement said, “All the camps of the terrorists in the area [Yobe] had been dislodged as some of the insurgents fled towards Niger.” The Nigeria Television Authority news also reported on June 5, 2013, that five Nigerien nationals were arrested at Mallam Fatori in northern Borno while trying to flee into Niger in Toyota Land Cruisers. See “Suspects Charged in Nigeria Bombing,” al-Jazira, December 25, 2011. Boko Haram leaders also fled to neighboring countries after the security force crackdown on Boko Haram in July 2009. See “Seven Foreigners Among Captured Insurgents,” Daily Trust, May 31, 2013. As stated by Reuters, “But as before, the Islamists have packed up and fled across borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon or melted away into the civilian population…” See “Nigerian Islamists Retreat, Apparently to Fight Another Day,” Reuters, June 7, 2013.

[56] Amina Mohammed, “Orji Kalu Blames JTF for Baga Killings,” Premium Times, April 23, 2013; “Baga Killings, Cut In The Soul Of Nigeria, Says ANPP,” Sahara Reporters,” April 24, 2013; John Ameh et al., “Outrage Over Baga, Borno State Massacre,” Punch, April 24, 2013; “Governors Forum Urges Government To Ignore Emergency Call in Borno, Yobe,” Huhu Online, May 13, 2013.

[57] One of the three masterminds of the August 26, 2011, UN Headquarters attack in Abuja was Babagana Ismail Kwaljima (also known as Abu Summaya). He was arrested in Kano in 2007 after returning from training with AQIM in Algeria on suspicion of plotting attacks against U.S. targets in Nigeria. He was released from prison in 2007, however, to “placate Muslim groups,” but was rearrested again one week before the UN Headquarters attack in August 2011, on suspicion of helping to mastermind “an attack,” which turned out to be the UN Headquarters attack one week later. One of the leading recruiters for AQIM in 2007, when Abu Summaya as well as Khalid al-Barnawi were in Algeria (or operating with AQIM), was Hamada Ould Kheiru, who became the minister of justice in MUJAO-controlled Gao, Mali, in 2012. The chief mastermind of the UN Headquarters attack in Abuja was the Cameroonian Mamman Nur, who also has links to AQIM and al-Shabab. The UN Headquarters attack in Abuja resembled AQIM’s attacks the same day against Algeria’s premier military academy on August 26, 2011, and also AQIM’s attack on the UN Headquarters in Algiers in 2007 and al-Qa`ida in Iraq’s (AQI) attack on the UN Headquarters in Baghdad in 2003. Meanwhile, Ansaru has specifically referenced the United Nations in its statements. In addition, the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was “commended” in a statement by an unknown group in Kano calling itself “Jama`atul Qatlul Kafir fi Sabilillahi,” which may have been Ansaru, since Ansaru’s motto is “Jihad fi Sabilillahi.” Finally, Boko Haram member Adam Kambar may have been the key link between Boko Haram, AQIM and al-Shabab before he was killed by Nigerian security forces in August 2012. On June 16, 2011, one day after Boko Haram warned that its members arrived from Somalia “where they received real training on warfare,” Boko Haram also carried out its first suicide car bombing at the Federal Police Headquarters. See Omololu Ogunmade, “Military Lays Claim to Killing Boko Haram Kingpin,” This Day, June 7, 2013; “Another Islamist Sect Surfaces In Kano, Threatens To Bomb Radio Station,” Sahara Reporters, September 12, 2012; Jemal Oumar, “AQIM Link to Abuja Suicide Bombing,” Magharebia, September 9, 2011; “US Places $23m Reward for Boko Haram Leader, Shekau, 4 Others,” Vanguard, June 3, 2013; “Nigerian Islamists Vow ‘Fiercer’ Attacks,” Agence France-Presse, June 15, 2011.

[58] “Bellawar revendique les attentats du Niger,” Agence Nouakchott d’Information, May 24, 2013.

[59] “Le Mujao revendique le double attentat et promet qu’il y en aura d’autres,” Radio France Internationale, May 24, 2013; “Cote d’Ivoire: France Warns Nationals in Côte d’Ivoire of Terror Threat,” Radio France Internationale, June 1, 2013; Cyril Bensimon, “Côte d’Ivoire: un rapport de l’ONU riche en revelations,” Radio France Internationale, October 6, 2012.

[60] Niger: Boko Haram Prisoners Tried to Escape,” Associated Press, June 2, 2013.

[61] “U.S. Commander Says Benghazi Attacks Linked to al Qaeda in Maghreb,” Reuters, November 14, 2012; “AFRICOM Chief Gen. Carter Ham Says Some of Benghazi Attackers had al Qaeda ‘Linkages,’” CBS, November 14, 2012.

[62] Camilus Eboh, “U.S. to Nigeria: Develop North to Beat Boko Haram,” Reuters, March 5, 2012.

[63] “Nigeria Polio Vaccinators Shot Dead in Kano,” BBC, February 8, 2013; “Travel Warning U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs: Nigeria,” U.S. State Department, June 3, 2013. According to the U.S. State Department warning: “In 2013, extremists have also targeted both Nigerians and foreign nationals involved in polio eradication efforts in northern Nigeria. Several agencies that have partnered with the United States government in the field of public health development in northern Nigeria have curtailed their activities in response to these threats.” Also see “‘Doctors Without Borders’ Shut Borno Clinic,” Daily Independent, May 24, 2013.

[64] “India Warns Citizens Against Travelling to 3 Nigerian States,” The Hindu, June 6, 2013; Aminu Abubakar, “Three N. Korean Doctors Slain in Northeastern Nigeria,” Agence France-Presse, February 10, 2013; Njadvara Musa, “Gunmen Kill Two Indians, Injure Others in Borno,” The Guardian [Lagos], July 26, 2012; “Gunmen Kill Two Chinese Workers in Northeast Nigeria,” Reuters, November 8, 2013; “The Ansaru Debacle,” The Source, March 25, 2013.

[65] Hamisu Muhammas, “FG Orders Speedy Exploration of Oil in Chad Basin,” Daily Trust, September 10, 2012.

[66] “Diffa: La peur de Boko Haram se répand dans plusieurs villages frontaliers avec le Nigeria,” Presse en ligne du Niger, April 21, 2013; “Insécurité à Diffa: Des bandits armés venus du Nigeria frappent aux portes du Niger,” ActuNiger, February 3, 2013; Yushua Ibrahim, “6,000 Borno Refugees Seek Shelter in Niger,” Daily Trust, May 28, 2013; “Calm Returns to Niger Town After Days of Violence Linked to Chinese Firm,” Radio France Internationale, April 29, 2013.

[67] Ibid.

[68] “Kano Blast: Nigeria Bus Station Bomb Toll Rises,” BBC, March 19, 2013; Yinka Fabowale, “Boko Haram Kills Four Yoruba Produce Buyers in Borno,” The Sun, May 8, 2013.

[69] “Military’s Shutdown of NE Nigeria Telecoms Disrupts Trade,” IRIN, June 11, 2013; James Bwala, “Roads Leading to Boko Haram Hideouts in Borno Remain Closed – JTF,” Nigerian Tribune, June 12, 2013.

[70] “Boko Haram Kills Cameroon Mayor,” The Sun, October 20, 2012; Yuh Timchia, “Boko Haram ‘Informant’ Killed in Cameroon,” Africa Review, January 21, 2013.

[71] Mike Pflanz and Tom Chivers, “Chad Rebels Forced Out of N’Djamena,” Daily Telegraph, February 4, 2008; Claude Angeli, “Three Centers for Intensive Training in International Jihad,” Le Canard Enchaine, June 5, 2013; “Libya Accused of Destabilising Region,” News24 Nigeria, May 31, 2013; “Tchad: Boko Haram présent à N’Djamena?” Africa Times, February 14, 2013; Tanguy Berthmet, “Deby: ‘Libya Is On the Verge of Exploding,’” Le Figaro, June 8, 2013. Deby said, “…the war in Mali comes from Libya and it is regrouping in Libya and this is a matter for the entire international community because the connection can be quickly made between Boko Haram in Nigeria and the groups in northern Niger. This is not encouraging and we are not prepared for this type of situation. Terrorism can strike when it wants, even in Chad.” See Francois Soudan, “The New Targets of Al-Qa’ida: In Truth: ‘Wild Wild South,’” Jeune Afrique, June 10, 2013.

Stay Informed

Sign up to receive updates from CTC.

Sign up