Boko Haram Atrocities 2012 – August 2014

Boko Haram Atrocities 2012 – August 2014


Howard Adelman

As the 14 February elections approach in Nigeria, Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, a city with a population of at least two million, is once again under siege for the third time in four weeks. The last assault was on 24 January. As in the last two attacks, BH fighters first arrive in the night wearing full-face turbans showing only their eyes, each time from a different direction, but each time on motorcycles and pickup trucks as they shoot their way into the city and shout, “Allahu akbar.” They lock the girls and young women in several houses so they may later choose “wives” from among them instead of kidnapping them all as in April 2013. They also start their campaign of terror by beheading any they consider to be apostates and shoot young men who refuse to join their cause. As you will see from the documentation of the atrocities in 2012, as bad as the situation was then, the targeting of civilian populations has grown enormously since.

Even though BH makes some effort at proselytizing and redistributes some of the food BH fighters have looted, BH is not primarily out to win hearts and minds, just accomplices in its politics of fear and intimidation. Maiduguri is already packed with tens of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who fled the surrounding countryside overrun by BH primarily in 2014 and its version of terror in the name of justice and faith. The IDPs either live with relatives or are scattered among the 16 IDP camps which bear no resemblance to UNHCR relatively well-ordered camps and, at least, minimally fed refugees.

I expect that BH will be pushed back once again from Maiduguru by the Nigerian Army by soldiers who can only expect execution if they fall into the hands of BH. The armies of Chad and Cameroon have won decisive victories when BH tried to expand in those countries last week. If Chad and Cameroon can do it, why not Nigeria which has the third largest army in Africa and certainly the biggest in West Africa? In 2014, Nigeria ranked 21 among economies in the world and currently beats South Africa for first place in Africa with a GDP of $500 billion.

Whereas Nigerian peacekeeping forces were among the most effective in the world in 1990s, this is no longer true. The operations under ECOWAS authority in Sierra Leone and Liberia that began in 1990 could not be duplicated today. Nigerian forces were almost useless in fighting al-Qaeda-linked forces in Mali in 2013. Yet the army absorbed almost six billion n US dollarsof the 2014 Nigerian budget. The strategy of starving the army by tolerating and even enhancing corruption to prevent a military coup has backfired. The army suffers from a lack of and poorly maintained equipment, low operational readiness, inadequate training, and low military morale, all made worse by poor salaries and conditions for the regular grunts, quite aside from the ethnic divisions and regional loyalties that plague Nigeria’s constant efforts to maintain an army loyal to the federal government.

How does one explain the military deterioration in Nigeria? The simple answer is corruption. The ships of its navy and the aircraft of its air force are, for the most part, inoperative. Most of their ground troops have little capacity to launch offensive operations, though that has significantly improved in the last 20 months. This also explains the decline in American cooperation with the Nigerian armed forces. On the other hand, it is very difficult to deal with an enemy that can launch attacks from many locations across a very large country, for the attacks are not limited to the three northern states. One noticeable pattern after 2012 was the increasing capability of the police and the military to bring the war back to Boko Haram. There have been startling successes in one area – far fewer police stations and army barracks have been attacked – but more civilians have been targeted and territory has been captured and held.

It is not clear whether the reason lay in BH strategy or is to found in far greater intimidation and exclusive targeting of civilians with the clear intent of holding and capturing villages and towns in Borno State. Thus, although military attacks against the police initially escalated in 2012, by 2014 they had fallen off drastically. The police and security forces began aggressively to fight and take the war into BH enclaves and so-called safe houses. Select political leaders were assassinated by BH, but fewer of them and hardly any in 2013 and 2014. Increased numbers of churches continued to be attacked in 2012, but these attacks fell off as BH focused its militancy against whole villages and used suicide bombers and explosives to cause many more casualties.

Far fewer Muslim clerics are now being killed, and BH explicitly announced that it had not been responsible for the attack on the mosque in Kano in June of 2012. The attacks on churches had a double effect, not only killing parishioners of what BH regards as an apostate faith, but provoking mob retaliatory attacks in several cases against Muslim bystanders, thereby deepening the rift between Muslims and Christians even further. But these types of attacks decreased considerably by 2014. Police stations were always attacked in conjunction with an effort to rob a bank, but BH seems to have acquired more sophisticated military equipment and explosives from the spate of attacks on the police and the military in 2012 so that by mid-July they could concentrate on attacking and capturing villages in Borno State. Attacks on civilians continued, primarily against targets seen to be bringing western values into northern Nigeria – pubs, construction sites, schools and even the newspaper, The Day in April 2012. 2                                                                                                                                                                                  Though the military counter-attacks against BH have significantly improved, the prognosis remains depressing as the military failed to capture a few key bases that BH had captured. The advance of BH over the last three years began with the coordinated 2012 attack in Kano against 8 different security facilities (the regional police headquarters, 2 police stations, local headquarters of state security, home of a police official, state police command headquarters), even though the strength of BH is also its greatest weakness. For BH is very decentralized and lacks a forceful unified command structure. However, BH has demonstrated that it is very capable of coordinated assaults. In 2014, it has also shown that it can concentrate sufficient forces to capture towns and villages, especially in Borno State with a highly increased lethality of civilians. Since 2012, the Nigerian army, police and security forces made a concerted effort to take the battle into the warrens where BH murderers and bombers take refuge in the cities. However, the Nigerian security forces have been unable to launch a consistent assault to retake territory captured by BH.

There has been a countervailing interpretation that the primary issue is not military but political. The political issue is not the gain in popular support for BH – which has undoubtedly lost ground. The growing strength and horror of BH has become a prime election issue in this election year in 2015 for a number of very different reasons, quite aside from the likelihood that the recent increase in the number of attacks, their main targets and heightened lethality seem to indicate that disrupting the election and delegitimizing the results may be the main strategy in the recent pattern of BH attacks.

Note the following:

  • Of the 174 million population (Lagos alone has an estimated population of 25 million), and the estimated expected vote of over 40 million, of the 5.6 million population in the three northeastern states, 1.5 million eligible voters reside in Borno, Yobe and Adanowa
  • Of those,18% have been displaced, and Nigerian law requires that voters must cast their ballots in their home constituencies
  • Thus, even though the Independent National Election Commission insists that the vote will go ahead in the northeast as planned, and even assuming that they are true to their word in spite of the increasing rate of BH assaults, to get elected, a presidential candidate must win 25% of the votes in at least two-thirds (12) states to be declared a winner;
  • This suggests that the violence is intended to delegitimize the election, assuming Goodluck Jonathan can win more votes than his rival, Muhammadu Buhani;
  • Further, if the election is contested afterwards over a protracted period, BH will be the only winner.

Below, please find the tables of atrocities for 2012, 2013 and until the end of July 2014. I am grateful to Ioannis Mantzikos, a PhD candidate at the University of Free State in South Africa, who compiled the original uncategorized list and published the compilation in the December issue of Perspectives on Terrorism Volume 8, Issue 6. The categorization and interpretation of trends is solely my responsibility.




22 June Kano Mosque – aborted 4 arrested
2 July Maiduguri Mosque under construction Construction workers killed 9

POLITICAL TARGETS: attacks against politicians, traditional leaders and civil servants

7 Feb. Kaduna Hon. Auwalu Ali Tafoki, former Chairman of the Kaduna South Local Area Bomb discovered and dismantled
9 March Gombe State Traditional ruler Shot 1
12 April Abuja Threat by BH to overthrow government in 3 months U.S. State Department travel alert
21 June U.S. Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar

Adam Kambar, & Khalid al-Barnawi

Declared specially designated global terrorists
Habib Bama (Mamman) Shot when arrested 1
3 August Potiskum Muslim traditional leader Escapes suicide bomber 0

Military and Police Targets

2012 Dead
17 Jan. Maiduguri Military checkpoint Assault 2 soldiers + 2 BH
Army outpost 2
Borno State BH hideout 6 arrested
20 Jan. Kano 8 government security buildings 5 suicide bomber; 20 explosions ???
24 Jan Kano Response to above by JTF 158 arrests 10 cars of explosives 300 IEDs
28 Jan Maiduguri 11 BH
15 Feb Koton-Karle, Kogi State Prison attack by 20 gunmen 119 freed inmates 14
3 March In prison Tiemkenfa Francis Osvwo fumigation 1 BH
7 March Ashaka, Gombe State Police station 7
10 March Bulabilin Ngaura, Borno Police station Gunmen 1
Maidiguri Repelled assault 11 arrested 1 BH
12 March Military patrol Gunmen 5
21 March Tudun Wala 100 km from Abuja Divisional Police Office Explosives failed
31 March Kogi Raid of bomb factory shootout 10
25 April Kano State Raid on bomb factory
30 April Taraba State Senior Police official convoy – survived Suicide bomber 11
4 May Borno State Prison 2 guards
6 May Kano Shootout 4 BH
11 May Kano Suleiman Mohammed + wife + 5 kids Arrest of BH Kano head
12 May Borno State Police station Burned 2 police
13 May Kano Shootout 6 officers
19 May Jos BH enclave destroyed ???
22 May Abuja Security officials foil police station & radio
5 June Kano Abubakar Saleh Ningi, former department chief MC 3 incl. driver & bodyguard
5 -6 June Maiduguri JTF operation 16 BH
8 June Borno State JTF operation Car with explosives 4 + 7
23 June Kano BH hideout Shootout 4 BH
24 June Yobe Prison 40 inmates freed 2 BH
26 June Wukari, Taraba State Regional police headquarters Gunmen 3 police
26-27 June Kano Dalo police division 30 BH with guns 10 BH; I police
30 June Damaturu, Yobe Pre-emptive offensive by police 10 BH       1 police
30 July Sokoto Two police stations Suicide bomber 2
19 Aug. Damagun, Yobe Police station Blown up ???


22 Jan. Tafawa Balewa Bank – foiled
2 March Trader and tailor Knife attack 2
8 March Birnin Kebbi

BH denies it attacked

Italian and British engineer kidnapped 2
21 March 100 km from Abuja Bank – foiled 2 arrested 9 BH
30 March Maiduguri Police station + bank 4
7 Nov. Benishek outside Maiduguri Chinese construction workers attack 2


2012 Dead Inj.
Gombe State Church Parishioners Assault 3-6
6 Jan Yola Church Parishioners Assault 8
26 Feb Jos, Plateau State Church Parishioners Suicide bomber 6
11 March Jos Church Parishioners Suicide bomber 3
Reprisal attacks 10
8 April Kaduna Churh Easter parishioners Explosives 38
3 June Yelwa, Bauchi State Church Parishioners Suicide bomber 12
10 June Jos Church Suicide bomber 0 41
bystanders Retaliation Mob 2
Biu 5 gunmen 1 3
17 June Zaire & Kaduna

Kaduna State

3 churches Car bombs
19 Aug. Damagun, Yobe Church building Blown up ???
23 Sept. Bauchi Church Female worshipper Suicide bomber 1
28 Oct. Kaduna Church parishioners Suicide bomber 10 145

Note that in 2012, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) ran an ad campaign on 100 buses in New York publicizing the savagery of BH and the targeting of Christians specifically. “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support the Nigerian Christians. Defeat jihad.” Mostly because of the phrasing, the ads were criticized as “anti-Muslim” “hate” ads.


4 Jan. Dalla, Maiduguri Teacher & son Home 2 + 2BH
10 Jan Damaturu, Yobe State Beergarden 8
13 Jan Yola, Adamawa State Pub 2 + 1
Gombe, Gombe State Pub 2 + 1
1 Feb. Maiduguri 30 so-called informers Targeted 7
2 March 4:mother son + 2
4 April Maiduguri Market Gunmen 7
26 April Abuja Off ices of newspaper The Day Suicide attack 4
Kaduna Housing complex with Damugun offices Car bomb
25 June Baluchi Cluster of bars IED Explosive 0 + 9
4 July Abuja Shopping mall explosion 0
19 Aug. Damagun, Yobe School Blown up
16 Sept. Bauchi Ludo game players Shot 6 + 9
18 Oct Potiskum Guns + bomb 23

2013 Charts of Boko Haram atrocities

Military and Police Targets

15 March Gwoza Prison – 170 inmates freed assault 1 civilian
22 March Ganye, Adamawa State Jail, police stn. & bank 127 inmates freed assault 25
11 April Babban Gida, Yobe State Police station shootout 4 police       5 BH
12-16 Baga JTF operation vs BH firefight 187
7 May Bama Security forces –       105 inmates freed assault 55
13 May Borno & Yobe “massive” troop deployment State of emergency Phone signals shut
11 Sept. Ga’anda Village, Adamawa State Police stations Rocket grenades 2 police + 1
24 Oct. Damaturu, Yobe Military barracks and police facilities assault 21 in total 21-70 BH
23 Nov. Gwoza BH hideouts N. military 40 BH
2 Dec. Maiduguru Air force base, military barracks 200 gunmen ???



15 March Kano Senior judicial figure
3 May Maiduguri Ali Monguno, former Nigerian oil minister kidnap



13 Nov Nguetchéwé, Cameroon French Catholic priest kidnap Dead Inj.



22-24 Jan. Maiduguri Many ???
8 Feb. Kano 2 polio clinics gunmen 10 workers
10 Feb. Potiskum, Yobe doctors North Korean assassinys 3
16 Feb Jama’are Construction workers kidnap 7
19 Feb. Cameroon French family of 7 kidnap Video 25 February
5 March Video beheading Alleged informant beheading 1
18 March Kano Bus station Suicide bomber 41
17 June Damaturu Student dormitory attack 7 students 2 teachers
6 July Mamudo, Yobe Secondary school dormitories set on fire attack 41 students 1 teacher
31 Aug. Yaguwa Village, Damboa, Borno BH hideout by nomadic herders in revenge attack 12 nomads + original 2
17 Sept. Benisheik, Borno Town attack 142
29 Sept. Gujba, Yobe school dorm College of Agriculture attack 40 students
4 Nov. Bama, Borno 300 homes burned assault 27
23 Nov. Sandiya Village 85km from Maiduguru Some homes burned assault 12


27 July Dawashe near Baga, Borno Fishers & traders Reprisal attack 20 +

2014 Boko Haram Atrocities

Military and Police Targets

14 March Maiduguru Giwa Military barracks & state security hdqt. 200 BH assault fails
8 July Damboa Military base N. army assault BH counterattack 15 soldiers
24 July Cameroon military Cross-border raid 2 soldiers



23 April Blabili, Borno State politicians ambush 2
25 July Garabula, Borno Alhaji Ibrahim Dawi District leader 13
27 July Kolofata, Cameroon Wife of V-Pres. kidnap 3



30 July Kwajaffa, Tashan Alade 5 churches



26 Jan. Borno & Adamawa 2 markets assaults 78
11 Feb. Kanduga Burn homes assault 23
15 Feb. Northeastern Nigeria dozens
26 Feb. Buni Yadi Federal college assault 29
14 April Abuja Bus station Suicide bomber 75 +
17 April BH mass weddings on 29 April School dorm kidnap 276 girls
20 April Yana Government school fire 5-year-old
5 May BH video Girls kidnapped To be sold
20 May Jos market Car bombs 118 + 56
1 June Mubi Football stadium bomb 40
14 June Borno 4 villages assault 500
17 June Damaturu Football viewing centre World Cup bomb 21
24 June Borno Systematic abductions Kidnap 60 women 30
3 July Konduga, Borno bomb 5
4 July Maiduguri-Mafa-Dikwa Road motorway ambush 15
6 July Krenuwa Village, border Cameroon Dressed in military uniforms assault 7
11 July Maidugurio Damboa Madafuma Biu Rd Main bridge destroyed
14 July Dille Village Torch houses & 3 churches assault 26
Madafuma Village, Biu, Borno capture assault 9
15 July Damboa, Borno Sambon Gari Village assault 27
17 July Gambou Ngala, Borno Bridge to Cameroon Blown up
18 July Damboa, Borno Burn homes 80
23 July Kaduna Suicide bombers 82
29 July Potiskum 2 bombs Suicide bombers 55


27 July Dawashe near Baga, Borno Fishers & traders Reprisal attack 20 +
16 July Gombi, Adamawa German Kidnap

Boko Haram

Boko Haram


Howard Adelman

In the third phase of its evolution as a terrorist organization, last April Boko Haram gained universal infamy when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in Chibok in the northern Nigerian state of Borno. The 17 April 2014 attack on the girls’ school dormitories received worldwide headlines, especially after Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader, released a video announcing with a smile that he was opposed to the girls being educated and intended to sell them as “wives”. The girls’ kidnapping had been preceded by the 14 April 2014 terrorist suicide bomb blast a week earlier in the capital of Nigeria in an Abuja bus station which killed at least 75.

That earlier event received nowhere near the degree of media coverage. Of course, that story was covered by the BBC, CBC, CNN and other major outlets, but the extent of coverage was not as great nor was it given the same prominence as the kidnapping event. Most of all, the story did not continue much past the date of its occurrence in contrast to the repeated references to the kidnapping. This was also true of the even more lethal attack 18 days later on 5 May against the defenceless town near the Cameroon border of Gamboru Ngala northeast of the capital of Borno State, Maiduguri, in the neighbouring state of Adamawa in which up to 300 civilians were killed.

Just before the national elections scheduled in eleven days, Boko Haram once again launched a frontal assault on Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, this time initially attacking from the south side either as a diversionary tactic or a shift in strategy. The previous attack took place on 25 January. Once again, the initial attack was repulsed by the Nigerian army reinforced by volunteers. It was probably a diversionary thrust since a later assault took place from the east through the Damboa Road. Though Boko Haram recently suffered defeats in both Chad and Cameroon at the hands of an African Union multi-state force, it still probably controls half of Borno State and parts of Abamawa and Yobe states. and Cameroon at the hands of an African Union.

In addition to abducting school children, this latest move reinforces an understanding of a shift in strategy of Boko Haram – capturing and holding vast swaths of territory in the northeast in imitation of Islamic State. In 2014, Boko Haram declared a caliphate in approximately the same area as the Sokoto caliphate which ruled parts of northern Nigeria, Niger and southern Cameroon before the area fell under British control in 1903. Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa, is officially called Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” in Arabic, or, in an alternate translation, “The Congregation of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad.” Boko Haram is the Nigerian radical Islamist militant movement that first significantly “upgraded” its strategy of extreme violence in 2009 after Obama became president. In the spring of 2014, Boko Haram entered a new phase of malevolence and terror. Governed by the Koranic proposition: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors.” Haram, “forbidden,” prohibits any social activity associated with Western society, including elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education.

A detailed analysis of Boko Haram’s terrorist attacks will be offered tomorrow, but the highlights of its emergence as a radical Islamic terrorist organization are as follows:


  • founded in Maiduguri to oppose Western education by charismatic Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yusuf in a religious complex that included a mosque and an Islamic school
  • Yusuf preached that evolution did not take place, that the earth was not round and that rain was created by Allah and was not the result of evaporation and condensation


  • July Yosuf arrested
  • 26 July Boko Haram storms a police station in Bauchi state
  • 29 July Yosuf escapes with 300 followers but Yosuf is recaptured; 186 killed in the attack on the Maiduguri police station
  • 30 July Yosuf killed in police custody after he was re-captured
  • the week of violence left 700 dead
  • Abubakar Shekau, a former theology student of Yosuf, fluent in Kanuri, Hausa and Arabic, and a specialist in Tawheed, the orthodox doctrine of the uniqueness and oneness of Allah, assumes control
  • Draws its fighters mainly from the Kanuri ethnic group
  • Launches military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state


  • Boko Haram attacks prisons and frees followers held there
  • Bombs Jos killing 80


  • In May, an inquiry and autopsy were ordered into the Yosuf killing and the 2009 week of violence
  • July 2011 five police officers put on trial in Abuja for Yosuf’s death


  • President Goodluck Jonathan declared an emergency in the three northern states – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa
  • declared a terrorist organization by the U.S.
  • Offers reward of $7 million for information on Shekau’s location


  • August Boko Haram declares a caliphate in northeastern Nigeria
  • With 2,924 deaths/injuries for the year, Boko Haram ranks first in lethality worldwide with Islamic State in second place with 1,459 and al-Shabaab third with 1,136

Despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world,

By the end of 2014, Boko Haram had overrun many police stations and military bases in northeastern Nigeria providing the organization with a huge arsenal, including armoured personnel carriers, pickup trucks, rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles. Complemented by the funds received by robbing banks and extortion from businessmen and foreigners who had been abducted, Boko Haam was able to purchase additional arms from the arms bazaar based on released munitions stockpile following Libya’s implosion. The bombs they made were crude and inexpensive as they were mostly made from local materials, though some dynamite had been captured by raids on such businesses as cement factories. Nevertheless, with all their actions, they are a very economic insurgency with an estimated budget averaging $10 million a year over the last five years. Until they began capturing villages and towns, they operated from the vast Sambisa forest along the Cameroon border. That base in the last year was used to attack Cameroon targets as well but there have suffered significant setbacks. The extent and intensity and the breadth of their mayhem since 2009 can be grasped in the ten charts of their murderous domestic activities classified according to the targeted group that I will publish in tomorrow’s blog. As will be seen, their murderous activities vary from drive-by shootings, to the use of bombs and suicide bombers and, more recently, frontal assaults. On Friday, as I described, Boko Haram captured Monguno and then used it as a launching pad against the much larger city of Maiduguri, 146 km south.

Boko Haram has evolved significantly over the last twelve years. Before the death of Mohammed Yusuf in July 2009, the primary targets of Boko Haram (BH) were police, police stations and prisons. With the succession of Abubakar Shekau as leader in 2009, BH became far more lethal. For example, before July 2009, attacks were relatively few and far between, and it was not clear whether the attacks were by Nigerian Taliban or by BH. Afterwards, there was rarely any doubt about which organization perpetuated the assaults. After the death of Yusuf and the 800 dead in Maidiguri in July 2009, BH retreated, consolidated and resumed its attacks on police and military targets. In January and June of 2011, BH began to attack Christians and Christian churches, though most of the targets remained Muslim clerics critical of BH. The evolution of Boko Haram will be documented tomorrow.

Throughout the period, the violence was centred in Maiduguri and the three northeastern states of Nigeria, but Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, was not spared. Further, drive-by assassinations from motorcycles remained a right-of-passage throughout for members of BH. As the list of targets expanded, attacks on police and the military remained the main targets, with assaults of police predominating. Attacks on platoons of soldiers only began in March 2011. Further, though attacks on politicians largely targeted the ruling party, sometimes it was difficult to determine whether assassinations of opposition politicians were simply made to appear as if they were the responsibility of BH, such as the 28 January 2011 killing of Modu Fannami Godio, the gubernatorial candidate of the opposition, All Nigeria Peoples Party.

2011 was also marked by the killing of businessmen and merchants who refused to pay extortion, such as the 30 April 2011 murder of a trader in front of his shop. In May, BH began its assaults on international agencies, beginning with the bombing of the Peace Corps offices in Bwari killing three. In that same month, BH proved it could launch simultaneous attacks by much larger forces. 70 BH gunmen attack a police station, a police barracks and a bank in Damboa, Borno killing 4 police and 4 civilians. That attack marked the beginning of BH attacks on financial institutions to obtain money to finance their insurgency.

What stands out is the collateral damage – neighbours, civilians, even children are often killed in the attacks even though they were not the targets. Further, BH suffers relatively few casualties and appears to inflict far more damage than they endure. From the December bomb attack on Jos, to the March 2011 attack on three villages, the strategy seems to shift. BH suddenly seems to be interested in area cleansing and occupation.

One question haunted me as I undertook my research. Why did it take the federal government of Nigeria until 2013 to declare a state of emergency? It is as if Ottawa permitted the Maritime Provinces to become a free fire zone for three years before any systematic full scale military effort was initiated to quell the terrorists.

Tomorrow: The List and Classification of Boko Haram assaults.