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The Boko Haram Sect: Nigeria’s Most Deadly

Extremism in Africa / Research and Visualization

*Report created by ISVG Research Analyst, Meagan Wilder.

On November 4, 2011, Nigeria experienced a series of coordinated attacks in two of the country’s northern states: Borno and Yobe. Boko Haram, whose name means “Western Education is a Sin,” is a sectarian group that considers itself to be comprised of “people committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad.”[i]

Lead up:

Since the beginning of their terror campaign circa 2009, Boko Haram has been threatening and committing violent acts in northern Nigeria. The week before the November attacks, authorities began a campaign to collect weapons and arrest suspected members of the group. On October 31, 2011, police had begun going door to door in order to collect weapons in an attempt to curb the constant violence—especially in Borno state, where Boko Haram is based[ii]—fearing that an attack would be more probable with the upcoming Islamic holiday of Eid al Adha. Although Boko Haram is an Islamic group, their prominent goal is to establish Sharia or strict Muslim law throughout Nigeria and moderate Muslims have been among their victims in the past. Some believe the attacks were in response to this crackdown by authorities. Others assert that the reason for the majority of attacks occurring in Yobe rather than in Borno was because the militants were aware that authorities were on high alert and simply decided to move their operations to the neighboring state.


On November 4, 2011, Boko Haram was responsible for carrying out 25 different attacks in a several-hour span. The first attack occurred around 1320, when three suicide bombers detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) inside the gates at the Joint Task Force (JTF) headquarters in Maidurguri, Borno. The resulting explosion killed the three suicide bombers and no one else.[iii]

This image shows the remains of the black SUV that the Boko Haram suicide bombers used to detonate their VBIED at the Joint Task Force (JTF) headquarters in Maiduguri, Borno, Nigeria.[1]

Approximately ten minutes following the bombing at JTF Headquarters, the El Kanemi College of Islamic Theology and a Nigerian State Security Service office were attacked by Boko Haram militants.

In Yobe, a series of attacks began around 1830 in the cities of Potiskum and Damaturu. In the city of Potiskum, militants carried out attacks with IEDs against six churches, the city’s anti-terrorism office, two police stations, and the 380 Housing Estate.

In Damaturu, IEDs were detonated at the Damaturu police headquarters, the First Bank of Nigeria, and a second, unreported police station.[iv] Boko Haram militants also shot at police officers on an unreported street and carried out a second VBIED attack at a military base in Damaturu.

The First Bank of Nigeria PLC was one of the buildings targeted by the Boko Haram attacks in Damaturu. [2]

Simultaneously, in the predominately Christian neighborhood of New Jerusalem in Damaturu, Boko Haram militants used IEDs to attack six more churches and a police station.[v]

Over 150 people died as a result of the attacks, including police and military personnel, Christians, and Muslims. Due to inconsistent reporting and differing tallies from government officials and other sources, the casualties that occurred as a result of each attack are not currently known. At least another 23 people were reported to be wounded in the attacks.[vi]

On November 5, 2011, Abul Qaqa, a spokesperson for Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview. In the interview, Qaqa claimed that only two suicide bombers were involved in the attacks, contesting official reports, which had stated that 10 suicide bombers were involved in the attacks.

Qaqa announced that Boko Haram would continue “attacking federal government formations until security forces stop their excesses on our members and vulnerable civilians.”[vii] Qaqa made it clear during the interview that Boko Haram would not stop until the government had changed their ways. The Nigerian government has not yet expressed any willingness to host talks with the group.

The Living Faith Church in the New Jerusalem (Christian) neighborhood of Damaturu was completely destroyed during the attacks on the city. The Living Faith Church was just one of over a dozen Christian churches that were targeted. [3]

In the weeks following the attack, the Nigerian Joint Task Force arrested 13 people believed to be involved in the attacks, although no names have been released. The arrested individuals, who were reported to be in Yobe, were taken to a military facility in Maiduguri for further investigation. The JTF is continuing to collect illegal weapons in the northeastern part of the country.[viii]


The 25 attacks carried out by Boko Haram on November 4, 2011 show significant growth in the group’s capabilities. The November 4 attacks were sophisticated, well-coordinated and deadly. By carrying out attacks in Yobe, the group has proven that it is capable and willing to mobilize operations beyond their home state of Borno.


[i] Johnson, T. (2011, November 7). Boko Haram. The Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from http://www.cfr.org/africa/boko-haram/p25739 on November 18, 2011.

[ii] Nigeria forces search homes for Boko Haram weapons. (2011, November 3). Reuters Africa. Retrieved from http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE7A201G20111103 on November 18, 2011.

[iii] 3 Suspected Boko Haram Militants Die in Explosion. (11, November 4). Panapress. Retrieved from http://www.panapress.com/3-suspected-Boko-Haram-bombers-die-in-explosion—12-803864-30-lang2-index.html

[iv] Suspected Boko Haram Militants Launch Complex Attack in Nigeria’s Yobe. (2011, November 7). Jane’s Terrorism Watch Update-Daily Report.

[v] Duku, J. (2011, November 7). Boko Haram: Exodus in Yobe as Death Toll hits 150. The Nation. Retrieved from http://www.thenationonlineng.net/2011/index.php/news/25500-boko-haram-exodus-in-yobe-as-death-toll-hits-150.html on November 18, 2011.

[vi] Duku, J. (2011, November 7). Boko Haram: Exodus in Yobe as Death Toll hits 150. The Nation. Retrieved from http://www.thenationonlineng.net/2011/index.php/news/25500-boko-haram-exodus-in-yobe-as-death-toll-hits-150.html on November 18, 2011.

[vii] Expect more deadly attacks-Boko Haram. (2011, November 6). The Nigeria Daily. Retrieved from http://www.thenigeriandaily.com/2011/11/06/expect-more-deadly-attacks-%E2%80%93-boko-haram/ on November 18, 2011.

[viii] Boko Haram: JTF Foils Attack, Arrests 13. (2011, November 23). The Nigerian Observer. Retrieved from http://www.nigerianobservernews.com/23112011/news/news3.html

Caption sources:

[1] SALLAH: THREE KILLED AS EXPLOSIONS HIT MAIDUGURI. (2011, November 5). Live Nigerian Post. Retrieved from http://www.livenigeriapost.com/headline/vanguard-sallah-three-killed-as-explosions-hit-maiduguri/ on December 8, 2011.

[2] The Yobe Massacre. (2011, November 14). The News. Retrieved from http://thenewsafrica.com/2011/11/14/the-yobe-massacre/ on December 8, 2011.

[3] Reynalds, J. (2011, November 12). Violence in Yobe State, Nigeria Aimed Mainly at Christians. ASSIST News Service. Retrieved from http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2011/s11110071.htm on December 8, 2011.


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