The 2009 Boko Haram uprising was a conflict between Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group and Nigerian security forces. Violence across several states in northeastern Nigeria left over 1,000 dead, with around 700 killed in the city of Maiduguri alone, according to one military official.
A government inquiry later found that, while long-standing tensions existed between Boko Haram and the Nigerian Security forces, the immediate cause of the violence stemmed from an incident in which a group of the sect's members were stopped by police in the city of Maiduguri as they were on the way to the cemetery to bury a comrade. The officers, part of a special operation aimed at stamping out violence and rampant crime in Borno State, demanded that the young men comply with a law requiring motorcycle passengers to wear helmets. They refused and, in the confrontation that followed, several were shot and wounded by police.
According to initial media reports the violence began on 26 July when Boko Haram launched an attack on a police station in Bauchi state, with clashes between militants and the Nigeria Police Force spreading to Kano, Yobe and Borno soon after. However President Umaru Yar’Adua disputed this version of events, claiming that government security forces had struck first.
“I want to emphasize that this is not an inter-religious crisis and it is not the Taliban group that attacked the security agents first, no. It was as a result of a security information gathered on their intention ... to launch a major attack,’’ he said.
Nigerian troops surrounded the home of Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf in Maiduguri on 28 July after his followers barricaded themselves inside.
At the time, it was the worst violence the country had experienced since November 2008. Islam online suggests that politics, not religion, was the cause of the violence. However some people, including Christian pastor George Orjih, were reportedly murdered specifically because they refused to convert to Islam.
Prior to the clashes, many local Muslim leaders and at least one military official had warned the Nigerian authorities about Boko Haram. Those warnings were reportedly ignored.