Boko Haram ("Western education is forbidden"), officially called Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad ("People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad"), is a terrorist, militant and Islamist movement based in northeast Nigeria with additional activities in Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The group is led by Abubakar Shekau, and the number of fighters is usually estimated at around 9,000.
The group is designated as a terrorist organization by New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and the United Nations Security Council, which declared it an al-Qaeda affiliate and imposed the al-Qaeda sanctions regime on the group.
Boko Haram killed more than 5,000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014, including at least 2,000 in the first half of 2014, in attacks occurring mainly in northeast, north-central and central Nigeria. Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by them have hampered efforts to counter the unrest. Since 2009 Boko Haram have abducted more than 500 men, women and children, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014. 650,000 people had fled the conflict zone by August 2014, an increase of 200,000 since May; by the end of the year 1.5 million had fled.
After its founding in 2002, Boko Haram's increasing radicalisation led to a violent uprising in July 2009 in which its leader was executed. Its unexpected resurgence, following a mass prison break in September 2010, was accompanied by increasingly sophisticated attacks, initially against soft targets, and progressing in 2011 to include suicide bombings on police buildings and the United Nations office in Abuja. The government's establishment of a state of emergency at the beginning of 2012, extended in the following year to cover the entire northeast of the country, resulted in a marked increase in both security force abuses and militant attacks. The Nigerian military proved ineffective in countering the insurgency, hampered by an entrenched culture of official corruption. Since mid-2014, the militants have been in control of swathes of territory in and around their home state of Borno, but have not captured the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri, where the group was originally based.
As of January 2015, Boko Haram controlled towns and villages across about 20,000 square miles, an area the size of Belgium, in the states of Borno and Yobe.