Boko Haram incidents 2017-19

Boko Haram’s violence:
a revised and extended analysis of the period
December 2017 to February 2019
(ver. 3)

Note: Version 3 is an substantially amplified and revised version of  this analysis. On May16th it was uploaded to

by Nicholas David, Ph.D., BHVR Webmaster

In a first version of this report[1] that surveyed Boko Haram violence from December 2017 through November 2018, I developed a simple methodology for categorizing and mapping Boko Haram incidents in time and space. The data indicated that a major attack was imminent. Within the month Boko Haram had, for the first time since early 2015, captured and held territory, in this case Baga and smaller towns around it near the western shores of Lake Chad. Two military bases were overrun and some 30,000 people reported to have fled to Maiduguri. It appears therefore that, however crude and provisional my analysis, it has predictive value.


As someone who has carried out research in Boko Haram-afflicted West Central Africa, Francophone and Anglophone, since 1984 and remains involved in cultural heritage matters and victims’ relief, I have become increasingly frustrated by the fragmented nature of journalistic coverage of the insurgency. Lack of news gathering let along synthesis of materials by the media, governments or others makes it near impossible for interested parties, NGOs, government agencies, researchers — and apparently the forces of order — to evaluate the situation, far less to act effectively to counteract the violence committed by terrorist factions or to plan for the political solution urgently needed to resolve the insurgency. At least as serious and more dispiriting is the ignorance of the situation to which the millions of victims, direct and indirect, in the afflicted areas are condemned.

This is the rationale for the following analysis based upon a) the indispensable Wikipedia monthly listings of terrorist incidents from around the world and sources cited therein, b) the superb access to space offered by Google Earth Pro, and c) my own knowledge of the larger region and its peoples gained since 1956 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Bn Queen’s Own Nigeria Regiment, anthropologist, archaeologist and university professor. I should add that my grasp of the specialist literature on Boko Haram is limited, and that I have scarcely attempted to differentiate the activities of the two main existing factions of what is commonly known as Boko Haram: Abu Bakr Shekau’s Jama’at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da’wa wa al-Jihad and Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi’s Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA or ISWAP).[2] Nor, though I have looked at the generally uninformative and overly optimistic press releases of the Nigerian military, have I conducted any research on the various armies and other forces of order tasked with defeating Boko Haram.  

For the period December 2017 through February 2019, I have extracted from the Wikipedia lists and other sources those incidents known or reasonably inferred to have been carried out by Boko Haram, placed them in useful categories, tabulated them by country, month and category, grouped incidents into regions and mapped them. After which it becomes possible to draw limited but meaningful conclusions regarding Boko Haram’s activities in time and space, and to gain insight into the future.

Data and methods of analysis

The area affected by Boko Haram is very poorly covered by the international and national press. Africa is generally and grossly underreported in global media, and the rare journalists native or expatriate who report from the field are wisely concerned with their own safety amongst populations that include Boko Haram sympathizers. Reports of incidents are thus almost always generally brief and of variable reliability. Plagiarism is rampant. Nigerian military and other government spokesmen are reticent to provide information, playing down the seriousness of incidents directed against them and especially the number of military and police casualties. Reporting the number of kills is always a confession that no significant gains have been made.

The Wikipedia data (Appendix 1)[3] include brief summaries of incidents, the numbers of deaths and other casualties, combining the injured and the abducted in a single figure. A number in parentheses is sometimes given for Boko Haram casualties but, except in the case of suicide bombers, this is erratic and of little value. The Wikipedia staff responsible for collection of data gather materials in French and English, occasionally Spanish and Arabic, but not in Hausa or other African languages spoken in the area. They clearly have no special knowledge of the region as is evident, for example, in their choice of the term “loggers” to describe collectors of firewood, many and mostly female part-timers, and woodcutters, fewer and mostly male, some full-time. I have modified Wikipedia’s brief descriptions where necessary to avoid misrepresentation of cultural life or where I have found better information. Wikipedia does, however, provide references to the original Internet sources. I have read all of these that are still available and have added data from them and from other (usually Googled) sources after the footnote references that give access to the original publications. When, while doing this, I have come across unreported incidents I have added them to the listing. Such incidents lack WikiType characterization in Appendix 1.[4]

Google Earth Pro is a precious resource but its naming of settlements (and placement of names) in this part of Africa is capricious below the level of substantial towns. The locations of the villages or larger settlements in which incidents occurred are almost always supplied in incident reports but there are no online gazetteers of settlements (Cameroon being a partial exception), names are frequently spelled in multiple ways, and only in some cases are distances to cities or larger towns specified. Sometimes we are told that the village is within a certain Local Government Area (LGA) or comparable administrative unit. The case of “Mabanda” in the Far North Region (FNR) of Cameroon and the site of an assault on civilians and two dubious “suicide” bombings of a mosque is a particularly frustrating one. Although described by sources variably as a village and as a city, no further information on its location is provided beyond its proximity to the Nigeria-Cameroon border, across which it is implied there is a road connection. Mabanda appears on no maps or administrative listings to which I have access nor in any other sources. I suspect therefore that is the name of a ward in a larger settlement and, since transboundary roads are rare in this area and I know the southern ones relatively well, I have tentatively placed “Mabanda” in the environs of Fotokol on the northern route.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state in the far northeast of Nigeria, has been repeatedly targeted by Boko Haram bombers and by assaults on civilians, often camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and some military targets. The sites are often described as being in the outskirts of the capital and sometimes by the names of wards, suburbs or exurbs. But I have found no map of Maiduguri and environs that provides such detailed information and must often rely on other clues. For example, there is a Kalari road in Maiduguri that leads to the SSW and it seems reasonable therefore to place the village of Kalari Abdiye along it, which also fits with it being within Konduga LGA.

I have followed up every clue in order to map incidents accurately, and am satisfied that the errors (including minor ones introduced by me to differentiate incidents in congested areas) do not obscure the regional differences obvious in incident distributions.

Incident typology

The Wikipedia typology of incidents relates mainly to the means (shooting, beheading, arson, suicide bombing, etc.) by which death and other forms of violence are inflicted. It is far more useful to consider the production of violence since this offers insights into the organization and capabilities of insurgent forces. My typology divides incidents into the categories listed below. To avoid overburdening the maps only the categories shown on the Key to Symbols are plotted.

Raids and Other types of incidents described below are not mapped but are taken into account in the Tables and Appendices. Maps 1-7 can be considerably enlarged.

Key to Symbols:

Bombings, in which the bomb carrier almost always dies, are often carried out by women and girls.[5] However that may be, bombings require relatively sophisticated organization of supplies and manufacture, but very little manpower or other resources. They allow Boko Haram to reach out to terrorize where they are unable otherwise to attack or assault. Bombers work singly or in small groups but also sometimes accompany attacks.

Attacks on civilian targets require militants in platoon, company or even battalion strength to carry them out, and these must be trained and maintained, armed, and transported on motorcycles or in trucks to and from the site or an assembly point nearby. A succession of assaults over a short period of time suggests competent organization with well-established logistics.

Civilian targets are attacked for a variety of reasons: to inflict damage on governments, to punish communities believed to inform or cooperate with the state and its organs, to terrorize, as in the assaults on IDP camps, and, importantly, to obtain cash, supplies and goods. Kidnapping is also practiced during such raids, usually on a small scale though at Dapchi 113 schoolgirls were abducted. Near Gamboru some 50 collectors and cutters of wood were abducted. Most are likely to have been women. Others were no doubt children, seen as potential recruits or slaves. Repeated attacks of this nature suggest that Boko Haram may in some areas be attempting to control the market for the firewood on which most depend for cooking and heating.

Assaults on military targets (including police) take place for a variety of purposes, one being to clear roads and facilitate terrorist communications, and to access larger centers, notably Maiduguri, by suppression of checkpoints. These require limited manpower. Ambushes directed at military convoys or civilian ones under military escort require larger contingents and probably prior gathering of intelligence. Attacks on military bases require the highest level of organization and logistics and are often undertaken in force  to obtain vehicles, weapons, munitions and other matériel. The attack of 18 November 2018 on a base of the 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele was undertaken by 20 truckloads of militants who killed at least 118 soldiers with 153 still missing 6 days later. The jihadists “carted away four tanks and other vehicles”.

It has seemed worthwhile to differentiate on the maps ambushes of military and civilian convoys, the latter often accompanied by a military escort, since the spoils from each are so different.

Where an incident involves more than one of the above categories, for example a Bombing that forms part of an Attack, it is assigned in Table 1 to the category that appears dominant.

In April 2018 Boko Haram suffered the first of seven defeats, most during attacks on military targets. These became more common from December 2018 onwards. Defeats are noted as such under incident type in the Appendices, and are indicated on Table 1 with a ‘d’ following the capital letter describing incident type.

Raids are carried out by at most a dozen militants, possibly teams given missions of minor significance, perhaps fugitives seeking supplies, as seems likely where there is no mention of firearms. The main aim is likely more often survival than any tactical or strategic goal. Some may have a punitive or terrorist intent — but probably not one devised by a high level commander. Desperation rather than planning or organization is all that is required to mount many such raids. Where sources provide little information, there are few casualties and there is no clear evidence of an assault or attack, the incident is by default classified as a raid.

Under the category Other are classed six other incidents, involving two executions and four explosions of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or landmines.

Table 1. The distribution of incidents by month and region according to the following incident types:  B = bombing; A = Attack on civilian target, Ac on civilian convoy; M = Assault on Military target, Mc on convoy; R = Raid; O = Other. Neither Raids nor Other incidents are plotted on the maps (Figs 1-7). Within table cells, incidents are listed in chronological order from left to right. The 50 Principal incidents, listed in Appendix 2, are here indicated by bold red type. For ease of reading this table can be brought up separately here.

Previously I followed Wikipedia in characterizing as most significant those incidents that resulted in the most casualties and/or abductions. However, this criterion is poorly correlated with the production of violence. I have now, admittedly somewhat subjectively, created a Principal incident category that takes into consideration the numbers of insurgents and level of organization reported or implied and the quantities of military matériel or, in the case of attacks on civilians, the amounts of food, cattle or other goods plundered and persons abducted. Principal incidents are indicated by colored cell fills in Appendix 1 and by a larger and red font in Table 1. They are also listed separately in Appendix 2.


Map 1. Distribution of Incidents by type and enclosing polygon. Raids and Other types of incidents are omitted. Note that all maps are included in the text but links are also provided so that they can also be brought up separately and studied in more detail.

Regions and their characteristics

The area of the polygon enclosing the mapped categories 0f violent incidents is a crude but indicative measure of the area affected by Boko Haram’s violence and of regions within it. Distant outliers are not taken into account though they are discussed with the region to which they are most closely related. By this measure the total polygonic area amounts to 135,000 sq. km, maximally extending 460 km N-S and 380 km E-W (Map. 1). The distribution of incidents suggests partition of the whole into six regions characterized by different patterns of terrorist activity as shown in Table 1. An Index of terrorist incidents (ITI) is obtained by the formula: Incidents/Polygon area in km2 * 1000. Thus for the whole area the ITI is 182/135,000 * 1000 = 1.3. The observed range extends from 0.7 t0 26. Anything over 1 can be considered substantial.

Map 2. Region 1 showing incidents and enclosing polygon.

Region 1. Northern and Eastern Lake Chad (Map 2). Area of  enclosing polygon: 14,000 sq. km. ITI= 0.7. The Chadian northern and eastern margins of the (mainly former) lake, extending in the extreme north a short distance into Nigeria.

The ten incidents recorded include four attacks on military targets and six on civilians, one of each falling into the Principal category.  Boko Haram activity in this region is marked mainly by its rarity, likely on account of its limited resources and the extent to which Boko Haram has embedded itself in this region. Nonetheless Boko Haram suffered one military defeat at the hands of the Chadian “forces d’ordre”.

It seems probable that ISWA is responsible for the majority of the incidents in this region, especially in its northern part.

Map 3. Region 2 showing incidents and enclosing polygon.

Region 2. Southernmost Niger and Northeast Borno (Map 3). Area polygon: 20,900 sq. km. ITI = 0.2. The region comprises the Komadugu Yobe valley from Lake Chad to a site west of Diffa in Niger (estimated at 12.08º E) south to Geidem in Nigeria’s Yobe state. It includes the ancient Lake Chad plains south of  the river down to Jilli (12.97º N; 13.17º E) and east to Gajiram at 12.49º N and across to Lake Chad. Dapchi in Yobe state is marginal to this distribution but assorts better with it than with Region 6.

Despite the low ITI, of the 50 Principal incidents occurring between December 2017 and February 2019, 23 or almost half occurred in this region (Appendix 2). The first was the mass kidnapping by the ISWA faction of 113 schoolchildren from Dapchi, of whom 107, all Muslim girls, were shortly thereafter returned. There were 26 widely distributed assaults on military targets, 18 Principal, and eight attacks on civilians of which three besides Dapchi were also Principal. There were also two bombings, a Principal one at Diffa, the regional administrative center. One IED incident and three raids complete the count.

The focus on assaults on the military, several in the Principal category, is an obvious feature of this region, by means of which militants captured heavy and other weapons, vehicles and munitions. Particularly striking is the surge in the numbers and severity of assaults on military targets in November and December 2018. The strategic build-up of insurgent forces and matériel that threatened the Nigerian government was followed in late December by the capture and holding of Baga and neighboring towns. It is typical of the underreporting of events in Central and West Africa that we have no firm information on how long these remained under Boko Haram control. Sources reported the preparation of a strong counterattack: but then silence. It is noteworthy that Boko Haram’s campaign in this region, attributed to and claimed by the ISWA faction, was primarily directed at Nigerian forces; civilians were targeted to a lesser extent and without the vicious brutality characteristic of the Shekau faction. In January and February 2019 there is some evidence of a shift in Boko Haram’s focus to regions 3, 4 and 5.

Map 4. Region 3 showing incidents and enclosing polygon.

Region 3. Ngala-Gamboru-Fotokol border area (Map 4). Area polygon: 1000     ITI = 26. From Ngala, Gamboru and Fotokol in the north, the region extends southeast to Rann (12.28ºN, 14.47ºE) and southwest past Dikwa to Boboshe (11.94ºN, 13.89ºE). In this small Nigeria-Cameroon border area terrorist activity was the most intense.

In the area of Boko Haram activity very few roads suitable for four-wheeled vehicles traverse the Nigeria-Cameroon frontier. Smaller attacks can be mounted cross country using motorbikes or even bicycles, but for offensives intended to obtain equipment, bulk supplies, military or other, or to inflict major damage, insurgents need to be able to use roads in order to strike and withdraw into the countryside. Since frontiers have little in the way of military defences and international communications are imperfect, crossing an international border offers advantages: disruption of border crossing areas is thus very much in Boko Haram’s interest.

Incidents varied considerably over the period under analysis, there being only five during the May-October period during which the rainy season and its aftermath render transport difficult away from major roads. The region experienced two bombings, one at Dikwa, headquarters of a LGA, nine attacks on civilian and seven on military targets, five raids and two IEDs. A dense cluster of incidents around the border area of Ngala, long-suffering Gamboru and Fotokol (in Cameroon) includes a bombing and attacks on several civilian and military targets. In December 2018 and January 2019 the town of Rann and its many IDP camps came under multiple attacks, three of which are among the 50 Principal incidents. There were four ambushes of military and one on a civilian convoy on the Maiduguri-Dikwa-Gamboru-Cameroon road. The last of these was directed against the election campaign of the Borno state governor.

The medium-light-heavy pattern of incident occurrences through time in Region 3 differs from the light-medium-heavy sequence in neighboring Region 2, and the ratio of attacks on civilian targets to assaults on the military is atypically higher in the second half of the period studied. It may be that ISWA dominated the region from January to July and the more violent Shekau faction from November 2018 to February 2019.

Map 5. Region 4 showing incidents and enclosing polygon.

Region 4. Waza-Madagali border area (Map 5). Core area polygon: 5000 sq. km. with outliers. ITI = 0.9. In the northeastern part of this region incidents occurred mostly in Cameroon, extending from Waza (10.93ºN, 13.97ºE) southwest to Mora and Mozogo and north to Kerawa on the frontier. Gulumba, on the Nigerian side, is considered an outlier. The western portion of the region is Nigerian, extending from Pulka at the northern tip of the Mandara mountains south along its western slopes and adjacent plains to Madagali and Hyambula, with Mubi, an outlier at 10.93ºN, 13.97ºE, site of a major bombing.

In the first half of the period covered (Dec. 2018-July 2019) Boko Haram focused on Cameroon with five bombings, four attacks on civilian but only one against a military target. There were also 12 raids. In contrast during the second half of the period Cameroon saw only two bombings and a single attack on a civilian and another on a military target.   Several bombings, all in Cameroon, and an attack on a civil target and a convoy in and near Banki (Nigeria) disrupted the Banki-Limani border crossing area. Other bombings, also on the Cameroon side, at Kerawa, Bia and Mora, targeted another trans-border route and administrative centers. There were five attacks on Cameroonian settlements, and an assault on a military target at Waza. Of the numerous raids, twelve took place in Cameroon. In 2016 and 2017 there had been a concentration of Boko Haram in the mountains above Gwoza from which insurgents ventured out to attack Gwoza and towns as far south as Gulak in Adamawa state. However they met stiff resistance and may have been rendered incapable of mounting attacks of any moment. This might account for the large number of raids into Cameroon, perhaps in search of subsistence. Alternatively, the lesser  importance of major attacks in this part of Cameroon might be explained, as in the Lake Chad region, by the greater integration of Boko Haram into the populace (see Postscript).

On the Nigerian side of the frontier in Borno state, convoys were ambushed north and west of the town of Gwoza, once proclaimed capital of a Shekau-led Boko Haram caliphate. In northern Adamawa state there were three bombings, the double bombing in outlying Mubi, achieving Principal status, killing at least 88 people and injuring another 58. No attacks requiring platoon or larger jihadist forces took place in Adamawa state over the period covered here, and there were only three raids .

From November 2018 onwards the number of attacks on civilian and military targets increased, indicating that the Boko Haram threat is here far from over, although now largely confined to Borno state and the extreme north of Adamawa.

It seems that the incidents in this region were carried out by the Shekau faction.

Map 6. Region 5  showing incidents and enclosing polygon.

Region 5. Maiduguri-Bama (Map 6). Core area polygon: 3000 sq. km. ITI= 1.6. The core area comprises Maiduguri and the settlements along the main roads leading to the capital. Nyeneri, Dambo, Mifa and Biu  (10.55ºN, 12.18ºE) are southwestern outliers linked to the core by the Biu-Damboa-Maiduguri A4 highway.

Activity was focused on Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, and along the roads leading to it from the east, southeast, southwest and west, and especially on the Maiduguri to Konduga sector. The region suffered numerous bombings, some accompanied by attacks in force, a high proportion of which occurred between December 2017 and July 2018. Several of these, including one in Damboa, carried out by six girls and timed to coincide with Eid el Kebir, are among the Principal incidents recorded. After 1 July 2018 incidents focused on civilian targets, with four before as against 13 after. There were only six assaults on the military, only the first registering as Principal, and nine raids. Military targets include a convoy ambushed near Damboa, and several posts along the highways leading into Maiduguri from the east, southeast and southwest. A barracks in the town was also targeted as was the main post office.

The overall picture for this region is one of intense bombing with sporadic raiding until the end of June 2018 after which there was a focus on civilian and a smaller number of military targets. During the period under consideration it would appear that Boko Haram became progressively more able to marshal the numbers of insurgents required to mount successful attacks, but that their capacity to inflict large numbers of casualties  by bombing was severely reduced. This may reflect a reduction in the Shekau faction’s access to bomb materials occasioned by the transfer of ISIS recognition to the ISWA faction of Boko Haram. As in Regions 3 and 4, the number of incidents decreased from July to October, resuming in November but in the form of attacks rather than bombings.

The choice of targets and level of violence is indicative of predominantly Shekau faction activity in this region.

Map 7. Region 6 showing incidents and enclosing polygon.

Region 6. The Western Margins in Yobe state ( Map 7). Area polygon: 2000 sq. km. ITI = 0.4.

There were no incidents in this marginal area until the bombing of a mosque at Buni Yade in March 2018. After a pause lasting into November there was one attack on a village and no less than six assaults on military targets, three of which are in the Principal category though two count as defeats.

The recent focus on the military suggests an expansion of the ISWA faction’s actions into this region. It is significant that the  increase of incidents in the last four months of the period considered is paralleled by similar developments in all the other regions except the mainly Chadian Region 1.

The bigger picture

First we should note that while it is clear that Islamist activity is spreading across the West African Sahel and northern Sudan zones, Boko Haram’s range has been greatly reduced. No longer is it bombing the United Nations in Abuja (2011) or churches in Kano and Kaduna (2012), attacking schools and the capital of Yobe state (2013), breaking inmates out of prisons in Kogi state (2014), bombing Adamawan Yola while controlling 70% of Borno (2015), attacking Chadian army positions near the Niger border (2016), or targeting towns in northern Adamawa state (2017). On the other hand the events of late 2017 to early 2019 are at odds with President’s Buhari’s claim of 2015 that the insurgency was “technically defeated”. On the contrary, the ISWA faction believed to operating mainly in the north and west of the afflicted area gained strength during the rains of 2018, readying itself for the larger scale campaign that erupted in November and resulted in the capture of towns and territory. The Shekau faction, thought to be most active in Regions 4 and 5, although primarily engaged in bombing of major administrative centers and IBP camps until July 2018, thereafter became able to mount onslaughts on civilian and military targets, disrupting the Maiduguri region and border areas.

A general inference worth emphasizing (although perhaps somewhat exaggerated by my mapping) is the importance of roads, and particularly main roads, to Boko Haram operations. This is true even in Region 2, which has a relatively poor road network, where most attacks on the military occurred along the Zari-Kauwa and Maiduguri-Kauwa-Baga transport axes. Various indications, not least the successful ambushes, indicate that the Nigerian military has so far failed to come up with a solution to this problem. 

The decrease in activity in Regions 2 through 6 from August through October  2018 is likely to be associated with seasonal deterioration of the road network occasioned by the rains. On the other hand the labor demands of the main sorghum and millet harvest and threshing season from November through January did not reduce Boko Haram activity. Insurgents are apparently not reliant on their own labor for staple foods. Nor does the patterning of regional activity through time provide any clear evidence of interregional cooperation between insurgents or factions. However, in Region 6 there was an expansion of probably ISWA activity directed against military targets from November 2018 through February 2019.

During the period and over the area as a whole, of the 50 Principal incidents eight were bombings, all of which took place between January and June 2018, after which 22 were directed at military and 12 at civilian targets. The geographical distribution of bombings shows complex patterning. Some took place around the margins of the main incident distribution (Diffa, Buni Yadi, Damboa, Biu, Mubi, Madagali, and Mozogo) in towns that are administrative centers, but on which Boko Haram was unable or chose not to mount assaults. The Maiduguri-Konduga corridor and Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, and with by far the greatest number of IDP camps, were also favored targets for bombers, six of which fall into the Principal category. In regions 3 and 4, bombs were also used in the disruption of border crossings and communication routes.

What is clear from Table  is that Boko Haram attacks involving considerable numbers of militants on both civilian and military targets have never been as many or as punishing as they were between November 2018 and February 2019. Boko Haram remains capable of inflicting substantial defeats on the military despite suffering some reverses at the hands of the armed forces of Nigeria, Niger and Chad. However this may work out in the next months, President Buhari’s statement of 23 January 2019 that “the people of Borno state have confirmed that the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist sect has been fully decimated” could not be further from the truth.

Despite the limited and poor quality of the information available from the media and governmental sources, some things are clear. Although there are few data on the religious affiliations of casualties of terrorism, Appendix 1 includes only one mention of ‘churches’ against ten of ‘mosques’, which were preferred targets of bombers. Many more Muslims than Christians suffered from the insurgency between December 2017 and February 2019. I hope that this will be remembered by all in the process of reconciliation that has to take place in the afflicted areas and that has already been initiated by the admirable American University of Nigeria’s Adamawa Peace Initiative (API). For the end of Boko Haram and its kindred insurgencies across West Africa will only be achieved by political accommodation – and so far we have seen very little evidence that those in power are thinking of developing policies intended to wean militants away from Boko Haram and discourage recruitment.

Lastly, I am aware of the inadequacies of the data and my analyses. I hope that others will correct these and take the research further, thereby assisting in the resolution of differences and the end of the horrors to which the inhabitants of the afflicted area areas are collectively subjected at the rate of one every 2.3 days. Please send additions, clarifications, corrections and ideas to nicdavid37 at gmail dot com.


Beyond the scope of this paper, an obvious question to be asked is how Boko Haram can survive under pressure from the four nation states in whose territory they operate. As all guerillas must, they swim among the people as fish in the sea. As yet I have seen only one well-informed discussion of the modalities of this quasi-osmotic process, that of the human geographer Christian Seignobos in two articles that appeared in Le Monde and describe in some detail the situation in lawless southern Lake Chad and the Kerawa-Mora-Waza triangle in Cameroon. See Seignobos, Christian, “Comment le piège Boko Haram s’est refermé sur le lac Tchad. Le Monde. 1 April 2018, and “Boko Haram a été le révélateur de toutes les haines de voisinage”. Le Monde  5 Jan. 2019. Required reading!


The data on which this paper is based are derived primarily from Wikipedia. I hope those tireless compilers of lists of terrorist incidents are encouraged by what can be achieved with their data. Google Earth Pro supplied me with the essential tool for relating data to space that can be immediately recognized as living landscape. I thank my Nigerian and Cameroonian colleagues and friends for information, photographs and comments, and regret they must remain nameless. Gerhard Muller-Kosack and Scott MacEachern continue to support my efforts with information, comments and suggestions.

Calgary, 16 May 2019


[1] Posted in Dec 2018 to the BHVR website ( and updated in March 2019.

[2] “Boko Haram is divided into two factions that have competing goals and operational methods. One, led by Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians. The other, known as Islamic State West Africa Province and led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, largely focuses on attacking military and government targets. ISWAP is dominant in the northern part of the area around the shores of Lake Chad in Nigeria’s Borno state, while the Shekau-led faction is concentrated in rural areas of the state.”

[3] In Appendix 1 under Type, the number and sex of bombers is shown in parentheses. In the columns ‘Dead’ and Injured/abducted” numbers in parentheses are those of insurgents killed or injured. These are frequently unreliable and incomplete. Under  “Location” the country is Nigeria unless otherwise stated. Numbers attached to locations indicate successive incidents. 

[4] Updating of the Wikipedia files leads to changes in the numbering of footnotes. It is sometimes necessary to refer to the original listings by month to find the original sources.

[5] While not denying Boko Haram women agency, I suspect that many bomb carriers and most girls are forced into service, for example by threats to loved ones, or that they are ignorant of what is to happen and, perhaps, the explosives they wear are detonated by a handler’s cell phone or timer.