Africa Center Associate Director Kelsey Lilley writes a book review for The Journal of the Middle East and Africa on Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Insurgency by Virginia Comolli:
Nigeria has been in the spotlight—and under a microscope—over the past year. In April 2014, the world watched in horror as more than 200 school- girls were kidnapped by the brutal Islamist terror group Boko Haram (a name that, roughly translated from Hausa, means “Western education is sinful”). Boko Haram, which claims to be fighting an insurgency to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, has waged a relentless campaign across northeastern Nigeria that has spilled into neighboring countries, at one point occupying as much territory as the state of Belgium.1 The Nigerian states in which the insurgent group was most active—Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa—continue to experience almost-daily attacks, including suicide bombings, as well as assaults on churches, markets, and other soft targets. The group is responsible for nearly 14,000 deaths in the last two years alone.2
In March of this year, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). While the development was not entirely surprising, it reinforced for the Nigerian government and the international community the scale of the security challenge posed by the group, which had previously been largely underestimated. The group’s June 2015 release of an unusually slick propaganda video, complete with a new logo referring to the group as the Islamic State in West Africa, signals that cooperation and collaboration between the Islamic State and Boko Haram is on the uptick.