Understanding Boko Haram and Isis

Each day, news broadcasts show stories of Boko Haram and ISIS committing acts of terror and displacing thousands of people. Recently, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS, causing governments to take notice of a current convergence of symbolism and ideology.

As Boko Haram and ISIS continue to share such things as flags and propaganda, the question is asked: do shared ideologies lead to similar group operating techniques, and what does that mean for the future of Boko Haram and ISIS? There are several key themes, such as recent land grabbing and advanced military techniques, indicating similar operations for Boko Haram and ISIS as an eventual outcome.

Savanna’s collaborative, all-source analysis environment is ideal for analyzing complex, ever-changing threats from groups like Boko Haram and ISIS. It provides the necessary tools to dynamically investigate each point of interest, to discover important connections, and to compile the evidence necessary to implement effective strategies and countermeasures.

Savanna Takes on Boko Haram and ISIS

A group of analysts decides to explore the similarities and differences between Boko Haram and ISIS.

1: Frame the Problem

They begin by framing the problem in a Crumbnet (Savanna’s narrative analysis tool) comparing Boko Haram and the Islamic State by outlining the ideologies, structures, resources and tactics of the two groups.

2: Capture Information

With Savanna’s dynamic Occurrence dossiers, the analysts collaboratively populate an information network about Boko Haram and the Islamic State. Occurrences are building blocks that capture people, organizations, things, places and events related to a problem area. In this case, the analysts use an Organization Occurrence template that captures information specific to terrorist groups to create an Occurrences for Boko Haram and ISIS.

Boko Haram Occurrence
ISIS Timeline

3: Visualize Data to Find Meaning

The analysts decide to create a link chart to visualize important connections between people, places, events, things and organizations captured in Occurrences. They add multiple Occurrences from their information network to visualize connections between Boko Haram and ISIS. Because the Linknet is quite large, they run network analysis to quickly find meaningful connections between nodes.

With the Map tool, they geospatially visualize Armed Conflict Location and Event (ACLED) data to compare Boko Haram and ISIS events that occurred over the last decade. They view the data by category to get an in-depth view of recent events. The temporal filter allows them to examine incidents from the last 10 years, so they can easily see where and when incidents with fatalities occurred. They then take a screenshot to use later in a Production and save it to the Space where they’re working.

With the Graphic tool, they visualize their event CSV data as a chart. By simply dragging column data onto the Graphic background, they can quickly view event types, dates, average fatalities, and more. They take a screenshot and save it to their Space.

They can also view events temporally by creating a Timeline. They decide to search Event Occurrences related to Boko Haram & ISIS and drag them onto the Timeline. The date filter shows a histogram based on the frequency of events occurring during a specific time period, and they can filter events by day, week, month or year, customize the color of different events to make them stand out, and quickly show or hide connections between events.

4: Discover New Information

At this point, they want to know more about the Islamic State’s organizational structure, so they’ll use Savanna’s Search tool to find relevant content. Because Savanna’s Search feature can pull indexed mentions of key terms from within PDFs and Analyst’s Notebook® Charts, one of the analysts is able to find a previously built Chart uploaded by another Savanna user outlining the Islamic State’s organizational structure.

5: Place Evidence in Context

As they build their analysis, the analysts continue to add new evidence and discoveries to their Crumbnet by simply dragging files onto the Crumbnet and connecting them to nodes. For example, they decide to add the ISIS Organizational Chart as supporting evidence to a node. All supporting evidence in Savanna is fully sourced, showing the date, time and source of the information that was added, with the original files available to view or download, making it easy to follow lines of reasoning and drill deeper into supporting evidence.

The Result

Now, with the supporting evidence they have created and gathered, they’re ready to compile their findings to build a multi-page report in Savanna’s Production tool detailing the distinctions between Boko Haram and the Islamic State and any geo-political implications that surfaced during the analysis. In the Production, the analysts compile findings, such as an image of the Map depicting Boko Haram and ISIS events perpetrated over the last decade, along with their Crumbnet and other relevant findings. Once complete, the Production is shared directly with team members using Savanna and exported to PDF to send to fellow analysts and decision-makers for further action.

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