In This Review

Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Insurgency
Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Insurgency
By Virginia Comolli
Hurst, 2015, 208 pp

Few people outside Nigeria had ever heard of Boko Haram before the group kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria, in April 2014. Since then, the group’s campaign of intense violence against the state and Nigerian civilians has garnered plenty of attention, but its origins are still not well understood. Nor is it clear why efforts to confront the group have proved so ineffective. Comolli’s informative book situates Boko Haram—whose name translates roughly as “non-Islamic education is forbidden”—within the complex history of the various radical Islamist groups that have long existed in the area and explains how the group’s brutality increased after the death of its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, at the hands of Nigerian security forces in 2009. Some observers have worried about Boko Haram’s links to other jihadist organizations and its international ambitions. Although she does not ignore such concerns, Comolli makes a fairly convincing case that Boko Haram is a specifically Nigerian phenomenon and that the group still lacks the determination and the capacity to act far outside Nigeria.