The group has made the headlines again with its abduction of over 100 schoolgirls in Chibouk in northeastern Nigeria. Following an intense firefight with soldiers, the militants herded the 100 girls onto buses and raced off. Eventually the group released 121 of the 129 girls who were originally kidnapped.
Boko Haram has become more lethal since control of the group was taken over by Abubakar Shekau. The attacks have escalated to new levels. The group has kidnapped and murdered Westerners, and started its bombing campaign targeting government buildings, mosques and churches.
Many questions have been asked about Shekau including whether the leader is still alive. His age is not known by it is estimated he is 35 to 44.
He also goes by the name Darul Tawheed and has been described at a master of disguise and a loner. He never speaks directly to members opting instead to communicate with a few confidants.
The U.S. has a bounty of $7 million for Shekau. It has also labeled Boko Haram as a terrorist network. It has provided both financial and technical support to the Nigerians battling insurgency but the U.S. is reluctant to put down boots on the ground unless a national security threats against the West becomes apparent, as the attacks have been for the most part limited to just Nigeria.
Nigeria has Africa’s largest population at 175 million and is considered by many to be the economic and political powerhouse of the continent. It is a key partner with the U.S. in oil and one of China’s major trading partners.
Shekau announced last year, he vowed to attack on U.S. soil. In a statement, he said that Nigeria was no longer such a big deal to them and that it was time to comfortably confront the U.S.
U.S. intelligence says Boko Haram has ties to affiliates of al-Qaeda in West Africa and in Mali with extremists groups.
Last week a huge explosion hit a bus station in the capital of Nigeria that killed 71. The group did not claim any responsibility, but it is considered by many to be the work of Boko Haram.