Boko Haram’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teaching and Jihad), but it has been nicknamed Boko Haram by locals in its town of origin and main stronghold, Maiduguri.
The nickname literally means “Western education is forbidden,” but figuratively conveys that “Western civilization is forbidden.”
This distinction is important because it succinctly describes the Boko Haram strategy of attacking anything Western.
The specific history of Boko Haram is fraught with debates, but there is broad agreement that the group was radicalized in 2009 following a government clampdown on the group that resulted in the death of about 800 people (including the group’s leader at the time, Mohammed Yusuf).
Abubakar Shekau took over as leader of Boko Haram after the clampdown. Shekau was allegedly assassinated, but he resurfaced in videos regarding the abduction of 200 school girls from Chibok in April 2014.
Ansaru is officially titled the Jama ‘atu Asaril Muslimina Biladis Sudan (Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa) and was established publicly on January 26, 2012, after an attack by Boko Haram killed 150 civilians, who were mainly Muslims.
The sect differs from Boko Haram because it is against the killing of innocent people (both Muslims and non Muslims). Ansaru also has the ambitious goal to create an Islamic caliphate stretching from Niger to northern Nigeria and on to Cameroon.
The organization has had more contact with international terrorist groups, including AQIM and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), than has Boko Haram. Ansaru’s activity is heaviest in Kano state, where the group appears to have an operating base.
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