Boko Haram

  • Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is forbidden,” is an Islamic extremist organization based in northeastern Nigeria, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in March 2015.
  • Since its insurgency in Nigeria began in 2009, Boko Haram has killed an estimated 20,000 and displaced 2.3 million. In 2014, the group kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a village in northeastern Nigeria, releasing 21 in October 2016 following negotiations with the Nigerian Government.
  • Since 2012, Boko Haram has conducted at least five attacks in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, where many US businesses have offices. In August 2014, the US Embassy in Abuja issued a warning that Boko Haram may have been planning attacks on US interests in Nigeria, though no attacks occurred.

Threat to New Jersey: Low

Boko Haram’s capability to attack US interests is limited to Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin, while its intent since pledging allegiance to ISIS is to expand regionally.

  • Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for five kidnappings of Westerners since 2012.
  • In November 2014, a regional Multinational Joint Task Force consisting of approximately 8,700 military personnel from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria was established to combat Boko Haram. In December 2016, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari reported that members of Boko Haram were surrendering “en masse” in Chad and regional military forces were planning to invade Sambisa Forest, a Boko Haram stronghold.

  • In August 2016, ISIS reported that Abu Musab al-Barnawi had been appointed the new leader of the group’s West African branch, replacing the volatile Abubakar Shekau.

US Nexus

  • Boko Haram is unlikely to gain support from extremists in the United States because of an inability to convey its message effectively and its prioritization of local Nigerian issues over global extremist narratives.
  • Although Boko Haram has only attacked US interests regionally, the US Government has expressed increased concern the threat from the group could spread.

  • In October 2016, military planners from the US, Cameroon, and six African and European nations converged to begin the initial planning for the inaugural US Army Africa-led exercise Unified Focus 2017, scheduled for April 2017.

Additional Resources

US Military Aid: Unlikely to Impact Boko Haram

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at or 609-584-4000.