Before then elements of extremism started showing in pockets of neighbourhoods of Maidugiri, capital of Borno state in 2002.
In January 2004 a band of some 200 young Muslim extremists including women and children set up a camp at Kanamma village in north-eastern Yobe, adjacent to Maiduguri state on Nigeria’s border with Niger, which they named Afghanistan.
They named themselves Talibans, drawing inspiration from the Afghanistan group of the same same. But locals refer to them as “boko haram,” a hausa expression for Western education is a sin.
The Talibans’ current strength is not publicly known.
Their goal is to impose up a strict form of Sharia and set up a “pure islamic” state in the north of Nigeria.
In an interview with AFP in February 2005, one of the sect’s leaders, Aminu Tashen-Ilimi, said the group’s aim is to establish an Afghan Taliban-styled puritanical Islamic government through armed insurrection and cleanse the society of “immorality” and “infidelity”.
“This a fanatical organisation that is anti-government, anti-people. We don’t know what their aims are yet. We are out to identify and arrest their leaders and also destroy their enclaves wherever they are, wherever they may be seen,” said Nigeria’s national police chief Ogbonna Onovo.
The group regularly targets police stations in its attacks.
At its creation, the group briefly took control of Kanamma and raided several police stations but was bloodily dispersed by government troops after a two-day battle in which scores were killed, many were arrested while the rest went underground.
Eight months later, 60 survivors launched a guerrilla attack on a police stations in Borno’s Gwoza, on the Cameroon border, killing some police officers and residents before fleeing to the Mandara border mountains.
Since then the group has waged attacks on-and-off often with long breaks in between.
A two-day battle in 2005 left 28 “Taliban” dead and scores arrested.
Last week Friday the police in Maiduguri announced the arrest of nine members of the group at a training camp in Borno’s Bama town with 74 empty shells of home-made bombs and other bomb-making components.
The 60 casualties the Taliban suffered in the latest battles in Bauchi are the heaviest the movement has suffered since it started its sporadic uprising five years ago.
More than 200 of their ranks have been arrested since Sunday.