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In a nutshell: What is Boko Haram?

A leader of a militant Islamist group has claimed credit for abducting 276 Nigerian schoolgirls on the night of April 14. It had been assumed that the group, Boko Haram, was responsible, but until Monday there had been no claim made. (The Washington Post)

Boko Haram is among the most vicious terrorist groups operating in North Africa, home to some of the worst Islamist extremists in the world.

The group is responsible for more than 4,000 deaths in 2014, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The group was begun in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, a cleric whose aim is an Islamic state in Nigeria. He was killed in 2009. The group’s current leader, Abubakar Shekau, surfaces sporadically in videotaped messages.

Shekau was born in Shekau village, which borders Niger. He attended Borno State College of Legal and Islamic Studies. He is also known as “Darul Tawheed,” which translates to an expert in monotheism.

His age is unknown. The U.S. State Department offered a $7 million reward in 2012 for information leading to his arrest.

In a video released in 2012 after an attack in Kano that killed nearly 200 people, Shekau said, “I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill, the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams.”

Boko Haram opposes the education of girls and has kidnapped girls to use as cooks and sex slaves. It has killed hundreds of children.

The group seeks to replace Nigeria’s government with a strict Islamic state.

Its home base is the Sambisa Forest, a game preserve in Nigeria’s northeast eight times larger than Yellowstone, and it has several hundred to a few thousand fighters.

Protesters spoke out at the Nigerian embassy in Washington, D.C. to express their disappointment in the Nigerian government after an extremist group kidnapped nearly 300 girls on April 15th. (Jackie Kucinich/The Washington Post)

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