When Washington imposed sanctions in June 2012 on Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, he dismissed it as an empty gesture.
Two years later, Shekau’s skepticism appears well founded: his Islamic militant group is now the biggest security threat to Africa’s top oil producer, is richer than ever, more violent and its abductions of women and children continue with impunity.
As the United States, Nigeria and others struggle to track and choke off its funding, Reuters interviews with more than a dozen current and former US officials who closely follow Boko Haram provide the most complete picture to date of how the group finances its activities.
Central to the militant group’s approach includes using hard-to-track human couriers to move cash, relying on local funding sources and engaging in only limited financial relationships with other extremists groups. It also has reaped millions from high-profile kidnappings.