On Security

Defining Militant Groups: Why the Names Matter

Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor
Jul 24, 2018 | 08:00 GMT
Police officers present suspected ISWAP militants, as well as a cache of weapons, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, on July 18.

Police officers present suspected ISWAP militants, as well as a cache of weapons, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, on July 18. Maintaining as much as accuracy as possible is important when analyzing militant groups.

(AUDU MARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

On July 14, reports from Nigeria's Yobe state emerged regarding an attack on a military base. Media outlets around the world were quick to identify the main culprit, noting how "Boko Haram" – the name that has become synonymous with militancy in the country – had raided a base. Truth be told, while there was certainly an attack, it wasn't conducted by Boko Haram, but the al-Barnawi faction of Wilayat al Sudan al Gharbi, or Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The attack touched off a conversation between some colleagues and myself last week that centered on one curious question: Why do many media outlets continue to refer to the group as Boko Haram, even though it declared allegiance to the Islamic State and formally changed its name in March 2015? ...

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