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Currently, the prevailing cause of instability in Nigeria is from the activities of Boko Haram

Boko Haram, like Islamic State, seeks to establish a regime based on a radical version of Islam, which it invokes in defense of persistent barbarity. Outside Nigeria, the group was relatively unknown until it kidnaped over 219 girls from a boarding school in Chibok in April 2014. Although some have escaped, most of the girls remain captive.

Unlike Islamic State, Boko Haram expresses no global ambitions beyond the death of anyone with a contrary view. It specializes in local mass-murder. According to a study by Prof. David Cook of Rice University, mass attacks by Boko Haram usually on villages, claimed at least 2,052 lives during the first half of 2014.

According to Cook, whose study was published this month by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice, the group in many ways shadows Islamic State. In August for example, it claimed to have established a caliphate. Cook Suggests the group’s success comes from some combination of five factors

1. Poverty in Nigeria’s Muslim North
2. Islamic Radicalism
3. Frustrations of the Kanuri people dominant in Borno state and northern Cameroon
4. Emergence as a standard African Guerilla movement
5. Desertification of Northern Nigeria

Since its beginning in 2009, Boko Haram has progressed from local targets such as bars and markets selling non-halal meat, to larger establishments, such as churches around Kano and Zaria in northwestern Nigeria, and most recently to concentrations of population promising maximum loss of life.

Cook estimates the group has 10,000-15,000 soldiers, possibly as many as 50,000. He says the Nigerian military’s response to Boko Haram atrocities, which increasingly involve female suicide bombers, has been impotent and sometimes indifferent.

Beyond establishing the caliphate and brutally enforcing jihadist Salifism, a branch of traditionalist Islam, boko Haram’s aims are unclear. Cook’s study makes clear, though, that the Nigerian government faces an insurrection with chilling parallels to the Iraqi incursion and has mustered no effective response.

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