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Uncovering the internal structure of Boko Haram through its mobility patterns

Prieto Curiel, R; Walther, O; O’Clery, N; (2020) Uncovering the internal structure of Boko Haram through its mobility patterns. Applied Network Science , 5 , Article 28. 10.1007/s41109-020-00264-4. Green open access

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Abstract

Boko Haram has caused nearly 40,000 casualties in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, becoming one of the deadliest Jihadist organisations in recent history. At its current rate, Boko Haram takes part in more than two events each day, taking the lives of nearly 11 people daily. Yet, little is known concerning Boko Haram’s internal structure, organisation, and its mobility. Here, we propose a novel technique to uncover the internal structure of Boko Haram based on the sequence of events in which the terrorist group takes part. Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) gives the location and time of nearly 3,800 events in which Boko Haram has been involved since the organisation became violent 10 years ago. Using this dataset, we build an algorithm to detect the fragmentation of Boko Haram into multiple cells, assuming that travel costs and reduced familiarity with unknown locations limit the mobility of individual cells. Our results suggest that the terrorist group has a very high level of fragmentation and consists of at least 50–60 separate cells. Our methodology enables us to detect periods of time during which Boko Haram exhibits exceptionally high levels of fragmentation, and identify a number of key routes frequently travelled by separate cells of Boko Haram where military interventions could be concentrated.

Type: Article
Title: Uncovering the internal structure of Boko Haram through its mobility patterns
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s41109-020-00264-4
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41109-020-00264-4
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Terrorism, Mobility, Crime, Boko Haram
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10101286
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