Ansaru: A Profile Of Nigeria’s Newest Jihadist Movement-Jamestown Terrorism Monitor

Ansaru video braodcast screenshot
By Jacob Zenn

After the death of Boko Haram founder and leader Muhammad Yusuf in July 2009, Nigerian security forces killed up to 1,000 Boko Haram members over a four-day period that month and arrested hundreds of other members in order to – in the words of then-Nigerian President Yar’Adua – “crush” Boko Haram. Yusuf’s closest followers, including his deputy Abu Shekau and third-in-command Mamman Nur, moved underground and began operating clandestinely, evolving from Taliban-inspired Salafists into insurgents identifying with al-Qaeda. When Boko Haram launched an attack on Bauchi prison on September 7, 2010 to free more than 100 members detained in 2009 it also distributed pamphlets signed by Shekau threatening revenge on “whoever had a hand in killing our members from the state governor down to ward and district head” (Daily Trust [Lagos], September 9, 2010).

Shekau’s movement is commonly called Boko Haram, though the full name is Jama’atu Ahlisunnah Lidda’awati wa’l-Jihad (the Group for the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad). Since its assault on Bauchi prison, the group has been responsible for 500 attacks with a death toll of more than 3,000 people. However, a dissident faction that rejects Shekau’s leadership emerged in January 2012, using the name Jama’atu Ansaril Muslimina fi Biladis Sudan (Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa, or simply “Ansaru”) (Vanguard [Lagos], February 1, 2012). This new movement appears to coordinate its operations in Nigeria with the northern Mali-based al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA). This faction may therefore be the most imminent threat to foreign interests in Nigeria, while Shekau’s faction of Boko Haram may be the more long-term strategic threat.

Boko Haram: Friend and Foe

On November 30, 2012, Ansaru sent an e-mail to a northern Nigerian media outlet and released a separate Hausa language video to claim responsibility for the November 25 prison break at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) headquarters in Abuja. Although Nigerian police claimed that only five prisoners escaped, Ansaru alleged that it freed 37 members and 286 other prisoners who were subject to “real human rights violations,” including “extra judicial killings,” “termites” and  “a complete lack of water” (This Day [Lagos], November 26). [1] On November 29, Shekau praised the operation in his own video, which featured Shekau and other militants training with rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons in an unknown desert location. Shekau offered “glad tidings” on the prison-break, claiming it free “more than 150 mujahideen.” [2] Among the Boko Haram members freed from the prison was the wife of Kabiru Sokoto, the mastermind of the 2011 Christmas Day church bombings outside of Abuja (Vanguard, April 6; Daily Independent [Lagos], November 27).

That Ansaru and Shekau’s faction of Boko Haram were united in praising the prison break is consistent with Ansaru’s June 5 statement that it would “compliment” its “brothers” in Boko Haram, but would distance itself from Boko Haram when the movement does “bad things” (Desert Herald, June 5). In a November 26 statement, Ansaru elaborated on these “bad things” when it accused Shekau of ordering the killing of an Ansaru member for “taking a moderate stance on religious matters,” “going too far in his interactions with people” and justifying his leadership with “extreme actions.” [3] When Ansaru first announced its existence publicly on January 26, 2012 by distributing fliers in Kano after Boko Haram attacks in the city killed approximately 150 Muslim civilians, media reports described Ansaru’s emergence as a reaction to the “loss of innocent Muslim lives” (Vanguard, February 1, 2012). In a June 2 video, Ansaru said that the sin of killing a fellow Muslim was second only to the sin of accepting laws other than the Shari’a and in a November 9 video Ansaru described the killing of Muslims as "inexcusable." [4]

Backlash against Shekau

Despite Ansaru’s differences with Boko Haram, the group maintains that Ansaru and Boko Haram are like “al-Qaeda and the Taliban, pursuing similar objectives and engaging in the same struggle, but with different leaders” (Desert Herald, June 5). Ansaru says its leader is Abu Usmatul al-Ansari, who appears with a veil covering his face in videos, and that its spokesman is Abu Jafa’ar, both of which are likely pseudonyms. Though Ansaru did not declare its formation until January 2012, UK Home Office Minister Mark Harper suggested the group was responsible for the May 2011 kidnapping of a British and Italian engineer, both of whom were subsequently killed by their captors during a failed rescue attempt by the UK’s Special Boat Squadron (SBS) in March 2012 (BBC, November 22, 2012). [5] Responsibility for the kidnappings was claimed in two videos by a previously unknown group calling itself “al-Qaeda in the Lands Beyond the Sahel,” though Nigerian security forces believed those responsible were a faction of Boko Haram (Guardian, March 9, 2012).

French news agency AFP reported that a Boko Haram informant claimed one of those responsible for the kidnappings was Khalid al-Barnawi a native of Nigeria’s Borno State who is alleged to have trained with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Algeria in the mid-2000s and then carried out kidnappings of foreigners in Niger and Nigeria (AFP, June 21, 2012). He is also one of three Nigerians, including Abu Shekau, whom the United States designated as “global terrorists” in June 2012 and whom Nigeria declared “Most Wanted” in November 2012 for being on Boko Haram’s Shura Council (This Day, November 24). [6]

Ansaru’s leaders are among the many militants in northern Nigeria who reject Shekau’s leadership. After Muhammad Yusuf’s death, Boko Haram’s Cameroonian third-in-command, Mamman Nur, fell out with Shekau when Nur took over the leadership of the movement while Shekau recuperated from gunshot wounds suffered in the July 2009 clashes. Nur loyalists believed Nur was fit to lead because of his international contacts, including alleged contacts with Somalia’s al-Shabaab. However, Shekau succeeded in using his fearful reputation to emerge as the Boko Haram leader; according to a Boko Haram spokesman, “nobody even dared ask [Shekau] questions for fear of death” (Vanguard, September 3, 2011). When Shekau issued his first statement in July 2010, he said that “being the deputy to Yusuf,” he had “stepped in and assumed the leadership.” His leadership style came under rebuke in July 2011 when a group called the Yusufiya Islamic Movement distributed fliers in Kano calling on the “evil group” (i.e. Boko Haram) to desist and urged Muslims to “pray that Allah exposes those who perpetrated [bombings targeted at civilians]” (The Nation [Lagos], July 21, 2011).

Nur went on to mastermind the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Abuja on August 26, 2011 and is part of the team that Boko Haram factional leader Abu Muhammad is proposing for negotiations with the Nigerian government in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. However Shekau’s Boko Haram faction has called Abu Muhammad’s faction “fake” and denied any connection to his group (Sahara Reporters, August 23, 2012). Nur and his loyalists were also reported to have assassinated Mohammed Yusuf’s cousin, Babakura Fugu, in September, 2011 after he negotiated with the government for compensation for Yusuf’s death. Shekau’s group condemned this assassination as “immoral” (Vanguard, September 19, 2011).  

Threat to Foreigners

Ansaru claimed responsibility for an operation on December 19, 2012 in which 30 militants raided an engineering company’s compound in Katsina (30 miles from the border with Niger) and kidnapped a Frenchman. Ansaru warned France that it would continue launching attacks against the French government and French citizens until France ends its ban on the Islamic veil and its “major role” in the planned intervention in northern Mali (This Day, December 24, 2012).

Another kidnapping of a German engineer in Kano on January 26, 2012, was claimed by AQIM through AQIM’s al-Andalus media wing and appears to have been connected to the kidnapping of the British and Italian men. The kidnappers, for example, warned Germany not to forget “the lesson taught to the British by the mujahideen” in Sokoto and the proof-of-life videos in both kidnappings were sent to the same Mauritanian news agency, Agence Nouakchott Internationale, which regularly receives AQIM videos. In contrast to AQIM, Ansaru and MUJWA, Shekau’s spokesman has denied that Shekau’s faction of Boko Haram engages in hostage-taking or ransoms, and, as a matter of verification, there have been no reports of kidnappings in northeastern Nigeria where Shekau’s faction is most active (Sahara Reporters [Lagos], March 9, 2012).


There are several factions in northern Nigeria that have taken up arms against the Nigerian government since the death of Mohammed Yusuf in 2009. Most of these factions are likely connected through the relationships that Shekau, al-Barnawi, Nur and other militants had before Boko Haram went underground. Shekau has been the main face of the insurgency in northern Nigeria, but his record as a divisive, albeit effective and fearsome leader and Boko Haram’s killing of innocents has bred dissent. Now Ansaru is gaining prominence due to its kidnapping of foreigners in northern Nigeria, prison break operation in Abuja and a media strategy that challenges Shekau.

As 2009 recedes into the past, a split will probably emerge in Boko Haram between Nigeria-oriented and internationally-oriented militants. The former group’s grievances are against the Nigerian government and largely inspired by a desire for revenge for the killing of Muhammad Yusuf and his followers in July 2009. The latter group, which includes Ansaru, will likely compliment AQIM and MUJWA through its operations in northern Nigeria and attract members who have trained with AQIM, such as al-Barnawi, or with al-Shabaab, like Nur. Shekau may also become more internationally oriented if, as some reports suggest, he has fled Nigeria and received refuge in northern Mali with other Boko Haram commanders.


1. “Declared of Jama`atu Ansaril Muslimina Fibiladis Sudan Garki II Abuja,” YouTube, November 30, 2012,

2. "Glad Tidings, O Soldiers of Allah," Ana al-Muslim Network, December 1, 2012,

3. “Important Message From Jama`atu Ansaril Muslimina fi Biladis Sudan,” YouTube, November 26, 2012,

4. “Video of Introduction of Jama'atu Ansaril Muslimina fi Biladis-Sudan,” YouTube, November 9, 2012,

5. Ansaru was proscribed by the UK government on November 22, 2012, though its connection to the kidnapping was not mentioned in the legislation. See

6. U.S. Department of State, “Terrorist Designations of Boko Haram Commander Abubakar Shekau, Khalid al-Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kambar,” June 21, 2012,

30 comment(s)
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Yes, I was also was waiting to her Mr. Tafarki (if that is his real name) response to Amos and others. His silence is really upsetting for a couple of reasons. The first is that his alternative view that Boko Haram is not the issues is shockinig. However, I agree that events of recent is making me, personally to think about this again.
Secondly, I am not in support of our troop going to Mali, but Mr. Tafarki's claim that ther lies the source of our terror is also causing me purse expecially with recent reports of BH leadership there.
laslty, I am not sure I am comfortable with your view of who Nigerians are and your accusing those with dual citizenship of inflaminig this crisis. However, you have a point though,and it is fair to question the loyalty of these persons.
In anycase, I fell you should say something as this is a venue to share ideas and learn from eachother. Thus far, I must say your views are been proven. But please say something Nna.

Mallam Tafarki. I read your

Mallam Tafarki. I read your blog and I am very disturbed. I agree with Amos and I also think if there is something you know about Book Haram you should tell us. Events of recent weeks are leading me to believe most of what you are saying but you should tell us more. We all love Nigeria and if we are wrong in where we place our blame, tell. I noticed you just disappeared. Maybe you are not real.

well done

Well done. At least someone is aware of what lies behind our problem.
As we talk oyinbo dey use african blood to enrich themselves without a care in the world.
Nigerians open your eyes.before its too late.


If they keep blowing up ordainry people and southerners in the north bear the brunt of the attacks, then we will keep insinuating the religious angle. Lets face it, the need for religious subjudication fuels terrorism all over the muslim dominated world. Thats where the stereotype stems from. Let BH blow up 10 important government officials, then we'll know they are against the state. The only way they can recruit in droves is by telling the ignorant muslims that this is an holy war and Alijuana is assured. Abeg, leave story.


Hey Open Roaders!Hope and I decided you're tlvneriag just to see how the vette does on those Western unpoliced roads. Just found out about the website today. You're doing way too much work on a vacation. It makes the rest of us look bad. Give us a call IF you have cell phone connection.Enjoy, Mike


We need Allahs intervention in these bomnibg issues.all countries have their trying times.we should love ourselves and protect our fellow bothers,we shouldn't give room for violence in our country.let's remember there will be a day we all will account for our deeds.pls unleashing mayhem is not the solution.dialogue is the way out.may God save our dear country from these menace.


U said ur prophet did not teach terro but all dis group are migrated from d religious he had set down and any religious dat teaches killing of a fellow human becouse of sin is against its self, there should be forgivness and religious without total forgivness is not true love teacher and not from the true God as well, Try Christianity and see the defrent. No christian group atack another they are for peace and peace continue.

My brother pls do you have

My brother pls do you have any prove 4 wat yu av said. Ok my if yu were preveilege to kn this very important personality muhammadurrasulullah even to talented and unselfish christian( he is a good person).yu might nt av course and putin bad word opn him. Ponder again and again

Prophet Muhammad did not teach violence.

U fool. These people that are killing the innocent are not following muhammad teachings. What they are doing is not the Jihad the he thought. The prophet did his fightings because muslims were molested nd harrassed due to there small in number so they have to fight to overcome the humiliation frm nonbelievers. They fight foe right. But the Boko haram are just using the name of religion to cause chaos rthat some people doesn't understand yet. If the killings is for the sake of Islam you will find all muslim involved in it. The holy prophet thought us to live in peace with those that are non-muslims even marry them. That we should not touch them if we are not touched. How is Boko haram and their like following Muhammad; they are noo.

You think Muslims are fools.

You think Muslims are fools. You keep creating Boko Harams so as to destroy Northern Nigeria. God will keep exposing you AS you want to split Nigeria you want to first create chaose in the Northern Region. You Igbos why fighting so Hard for Biafara Niger-Delta does not belong to you. Please i Beg of you who understand who God is and the Teaching of Jesus Christ and stop what you are doing and embrease peace just as Ojukwu told you before you force him to create Biafara because you will never win your. God will always be on the side of those who are truthful and Honest.

The major problem is

The major problem is that, if we dont break up, we can never ever have peace. The north can never stop their killing ways. Mallam have killed too many southerners for the past decades. Is better we leave them with their born to rule mentality. Its better we go on our different ways and have peace of mind.

RE: Nigerias newest Jihadist...............

Oof's! It seems other lives don't matter to many religious Nigerians. Only the lives of those of their faith matters. May GOD show us mercy and give us the mind to love our enemies in Jesus name.

@Oba Obong Chukwudi - Islamist Prat!

I know that you are a stupid Islamist bigot in the way you have hosen to present your argument. If you think that we are what you claim we are, why do you want to belong to he same country as us? It would be interesting to see you guys demonstrate the courage of your conviction and go on to create your Islamic republic. Then the 'dafts and drunkers' would be left in peace.

Tarfaki or whatever you call

Tarfaki or whatever you call yourself, you better take your psychiatric drugs regularly. You must be one of those stupid northerners who have relocated to the ss or se for fear of bh. This your daydream of one nigeria will evaporate when you wake up from your slumber. BH is not the problem, it is your mother that is the problem, moron.

The Nigerian government let us get here.

The idiocy of leaders with the IQ of primary school kids is what let us get here. You don't give a kid a gift if he asks for it with gragra. It all started with the ND militants. We need a president with brains and balls to step in and stop all this foolishness. If terrorists want war, give them war. Modern day warfare. Fight and crush terrorism with full force and the incentive will die a natural death. Now there is a provision for ND militants in the budget, soon BH will have theirs, then this other group and then all nooks and crannies in Nigeria will produce their own militants and then these idiots in power will understand the trend they are letting develop. If Johnathan doesn't know what to do about fighting terrorism. He should invite me to Nigeria and make me strategy and Anti-terrorism adviser and right after we launch a defense satellite, give me 1 yr and terrorism, kidnappings,cultism, oil pipeline destructions , etc will be a thing of the past.

Break or no break poor man remains poor

What i am seeing from comments coming from Igbo abd the SS dafts are absolute wickedness and barbaric acts to the core. One section is having problem, instead of you to be praying for restoration of peace in the region, you are busy crying for break up, bcos one of your is managing d country which will only last for 2015. Let me assure d Igbos and d SS bastards, even if Nigeria breaks into 150 million pieces all of you will steal remain poor, bcos you are lazy, greedy, selfish,unfaithful, dafts,drunkers, kidnappers and ritualists, that is why you will never ever succed in life and will remain poor forever and ever.


As the write of the article, I noted that BH evolved from Taliban-inspired to AQ-inspired. I think there is a difference. I dont think Yusuf and Shekau pre 2009 intended to start a global jihad, but I think after 2009 they did. I think their statements and actions attest to this. Once they went into jihad mode post 2009 the church attacks began. I am still trying to translate some of Shekau and Yusufs speeches pre 2009 in Hausa to understand more about their motives and ideology, so if you know someone who can let me know!

Allah wubade! The

Allah wubade! The Mohammedans are getting desperate. It does not matter whether they change their Boko Haram name back to Jama’atu Ahlisunnah Lidda’awati wa’l-Jihad or Luggard Terrorists, Nigeria is going to break up. Hausa Fulani thieves aided by Gowon and Danjuma have stolen enough of our oil. Their time is up. Baal and Beelzebub their gods cannot help them any longer. The oil does not belong to them. To your tents O Israel.

@Anonymous (not verified) on January 12, 2013 - 19:11.

Don't the teach people to write in English these days? It took me more than normal amount of time to understand your text speak. So we are in this together? I suppose that in a way we are ... just like the Cowboys and the Indians. The one doing all the killing and the other at the recieving end. This is not a new thing i the history of the country, indeed it was what led to the civil war. If you think that this is the basis of a great relationship, then you are deceiving yourself. You kill the Igbo man,you abuse him and you take what he has worked to achieve in his life time and yet you want him. WHY?

Jamestown Monitor is a CIA publication.

SR should know that the Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor is a CIA publication not worthy of recycling or quoting. All its publications are agenda-driven and measured for panic and maximum fear. It's a psyops program that's out to promote and justify intervention in Mali and elsewhere on the African continent. The linkage to Mali and a previously unknown group calling itself “al-Qaeda in the Lands Beyond the Sahel,” are deliberate.

We're expected to start shivering at the thought that these evil groups are expanding beyond the Sahel i.e. all over Africa, whereas they are all most likely CIA/Mossad sponsored to keep Jonathan off the Chinese and on red-hot coal.

@Moses Tafarki Your Blog II

With or without Boko Haram, there have been people agitating for the creation of more states. Just what do you think is so sinister about this?

When people from the South see the continuing bombing of Churches and the killing of Christians, just what do you expect them to think? The call for separation is legitimate in light of the experience of many who have lost loved ones to Islamic Jihadism. When the 12 Most Northerly states were allowed to introduce Sharia law, the die was cast for the unfolding events today. All of a sudden, everyone including Christians were expected to abide by it. Of course we feel for our Christian brothers in the North, and I am not saying that this is a panasea. But at least it is a way out.

You presume to be in a position to tell those in the diaspora what to do. But how do you think a lot of those left behind are managing to survive without their help. You will do well to stop and think before writing nonsense.

@Moses Tafarki Your Blog I

I have read your blog. You seem to have a definite idea of whom you like to think are Nigerians. So those in the Diaspora are in your stupid opinion, non-Nigerians? You even seem to be patronising to this group. Well, let me tell you, I am one of those in the Diaspora. I speak Igbo, Yoruba and some Edo. I don’t need any lectures about being a Nigerian from you.

You seem to suggest that you are in the know of what is happening in the country in terms of violence, almost implying that Boko Haram are the innocent bye-standers in the current troubles. It is not enough to want to keep the country one just because you are benefitting from the current state of affairs. Have you stopped to ask yourself why Southerners and Christians in general are being slaughtered in the North? You seem determined to pin the blame somewhere else and yet, you offer no evidence.

Are you sure that you are

Are you sure that you are okay? So boko haram is not the problem then what else is the problem? As for division, just start getting prepared for it because after Jonathan, south south will invoke the amalgamation clause. Igbos as you know have already finished their job based on that. Arewa will live with sharia and jihadist to it's fullest. ONE Nigeria is a curse.

No break up

U foolish u dnt tek ur tym 2 pray 4 well bein of dis country all u knw is break up, break up. Hw ar u sure dat u'll enjoy peace wen Nigeria break? I want u 2 cast bak ur mind 3, 4 year Borno was d'most peaceful city in d'country infact evn if u go 2 university of Maiduguri, Electronic market name Babban layi u'll find dt it was ur ppl dt wr makin use of it 4 decates bt wen smtin goes wrong wt such places all u pay does places ur ppl exploited nd enjoyd their livin is nothin bt tryin 2 disown dem wen yet ur ppl ar still enjoyn their stay in varios part of d'north ur truely an ingrate nd ur nothing bt a big Fool Nigerian 'll remain an indivisibl country if u lyk kill ur sef so dt u'll b free frm dis disaster as a country wen good com we share it all 2gether nd wen challenges com we face it altogether no tekkin side MUMU IGBOs Niger deltans NO break UP


Let me understand you, there is no space for everyone in the SS \ SE? And you feel that there will be fights between individuals for the Oil blocks? What a joker! I will assure you that there is no shortage of space for the population to live. Far from it, there is ample space. As for the fight for the oil blocks, you mean to tell me that you are unaware of the fight between Northerners for it? Over 80% of it is in the hands of Northern thieves who acquired it through patronage, greed, corruption and elitism of the Hausa / Fulani generals. Please dont make us laugh.


A bad tree cannot produce good fruits. Since all of them are Mohammed products, you should expect evil from them. Kidnapping, terorrism, raping, killing, marrying to five year old girls and jihad are the pillar of islam. Mohammed introduces and encourages them.

Re: Break Up Nigeria Now!

The country will not break up. Not because of Boko Haram nor any terrorist group.(When you have the time, please read

As you know Northern Nigeria is not just Hausa-Fulani. It is Yoruba-Berom, Bajju-Ibo, Ido-Tiv, Hausa-Ibo etc. The country will not break because these alliances formed will not let it happen. In addition, for some of us, Nigeria is the only country we have.

I am sorry, but we are in this together and we can use your help in moving on. Boko Haram is not an issue and it will never be. Not to those of us who have an idea about what is going on.



Metamorphosis Of Terror

I have to congratulate you for an insightful piece on the evil of our time in Nigeria, namely Boko Haram. However, the essay could have done with a look at the original objectives of the militant sect, before the 2009 response from the government, for completeness. Why did they come into being in the first place and why did the government feel that they were such a threat?

Furthermore, if it is true that Boko Haram under Abu Shekau are fighting against the Nigerian Government in revenge for the killing of their members by the then President Yaradua, as you have concluded, why are they bombing Churches and killing Christians at any given opportunity? Why would the killing of so many innocents contribute to this revenge effort?

Personally, I believe that they are fighting a Jihad as they originally intended. This makes more sense both in the choice of their targets and the noise coming out from their supporters and allies.

Break Up Nigeria Now!

This Boko Haram issue is more wide-spread, intense, and more well organized than previously thought. The conclusion in this report STRONGLY suggests that there is no way to resolve this islamic Boko Haram movement than to DIVIDE Nigeria and let the north, the Hausa/fool-ani north establish and form their own country where they should practice their religion as they see fit.

It is now OBVIOUS why president Jonathan, or any other president whatsoever can win this religious war against Boko Haram.

Conclusion: Nigeria MUST BREAK up and the Hausa/fool-ani north should be allowed to form their own Arewa Islamic Republic. Period.

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