This article reviews the early history of Boko Haram (1994–2009) in the light of the trans-local entanglement of Nigerian political and religious actors in the global paradigm of the War on Terror (WoT). Empirically, the article shows evidence of Nigeria's early involvement in a counterterrorism strategy based on the surveillance of actors (who gradually morphed into Boko Haram) believed to be connected to international terrorist networks. Such a strategy was mainly designed to sever such alleged international ties. Methodologically, the article draws on the idea that terrorism and counterterrorism are two structures that take shape in parallel ways in any given context and suggests that Nigeria's counterterrorism strategies need to become part of the historical narrative on Boko Haram. Theoretically, it argues that the early history of Boko Haram was shaped by a specifically Nigerian configuration of WoT politics. It submits that two incidents that occurred in 2003 and 2009 should be viewed as WoT preemptive strikes rather than as insurgencies. Finally, it argues that such WoT policies have contributed to transform a small, embryonic group of militants animated by a global agenda into an all-out, local insurgency against Nigerian institutions and civil society.


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pp. 10-42
Launched on MUSE
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