NIGERIA ISLAMIST SECT DRAWING INCREASED SCRUTINY – WASHINGTON TIMES

Imam Abubakar Mohammed Shekau, Boko Haram leader

Imam Abubakar Mohammed Shekau, Boko Haram leader

THE WASHINGTON TIMES
29 January, 2012

The scene in Nigeria’s northern city of Kano unfolded like a script that could only have been written by al Qaeda: Several explosives-laden cars driven by suicide bombers hit multiple police stations with choreographed attacks over the course of a single hour. But the extent to which Boko Haram, the Islamist sect that claimed responsibility for the blasts that killed 185 people Jan. 20, is tied to al Qaeda remains a subject of international debate.

While senior U.S. officials, including Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, have suggested the Nigerian group has developed ties to the international terrorist group al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), some regional experts are circumspect. Boko Haram, they argue, remains a nebulous and ill- defined national movement – less aligned with the globally focused tenets of al Qaeda than it is eager to embrace violence to combat injustice in Nigeria. What few dispute is the sheer level of sophistication marking the terrorism now gripping the oil rich yet impoverished West African nation, whose predominantly Christian south is tensely divided from its mainly Muslim north.

“Nigeria has never had a terrorist organization like this,” said Elizabeth Donnelly, the Africa program manager at London-based Chatham House, a British institution that analyzes international issues. Several northern Nigerian sects, she said, have long embraced varied approaches to fundamentalist Islam. The name Boko Haram, meaning “Western education is sin,” emerged as common parlance during the early 2000s for a sect engaging in smaller-scale attacks and raids on government entities. Boko Haram gained a foothold among northern Muslims by portraying itself as an Islamic movement capable of taking action on behalf of the region’s impoverished masses.

Tensions escalated in 2009, when government security forces violently cracked down on the region. Nearly 200 people were killed, including Mohammed Yusuf, the movement’s purported spiritual leader, who died after being tortured while in police custody. “At that point, it was believed by security forces that the job was done,” Ms. Donnelly said. “You take away the leader, and they assumed it was over.” In August 2010, the movement suddenly gained global recognition when a group claiming to be Boko Haram declared itself responsible for a brazen suicide car bombing that killed 18 people at the U.N. headquarters building in the capital of Abuja.

According to a congressional report three months later, the U.N. bombing “marked a significant shift in the targeting and goals of the group, largely unknown to the U.S. intelligence community, and capped off an evolution in the capabilities of Boko Haram, beginning in the mid-2000s, from attacks with poisoned arrows and machetes to sophisticated car bombings.” The report,titled “Boko Haram: Emerging Threat to the U.S. Homeland,” highlighted claims by senior U.S. military officials that members of the group are being trained by AQIM and are thought to have established “ties to the Somalian militant group al-Shabab.”

Such assertions have caused an uproar among some regional experts, including Jean Herskovitz, an Africa historian and Nigeria expert. She argues that Boko Haram has “never expressed goals of an international sort that would make it the kind of threat that is being portrayed in that report.” “It’s really important to know that it is not at all clear that everything that is attributed to Boko Haram is actually done by them,” Ms. Herskovitz said.

Virginia Comolli,a research analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that some media reports “have been exaggerating the level of the threat posed by Boko Haram regionally.” “It’s very sexy to say that Boko Haram is linked to AQIM and al-Shabab,” said Mrs. Comolli. “However, even though some ties might exist and some Boko Haram people may have received some training perhaps in Somalia, I think that’s probably the extent of the relationship between Boko Haram and the broader Islamist network.” “Boko Haram is a very inward-directed movement,” she added.

John Campbell, who served as U.S. ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 through 2007, says Boko Haram has been largely mischaracterized as a cohesive and unified terrorist group. The government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the nation’s oil-rich southern delta region, is “misdefining what the problem is,” said Mr. Campbell. “The southern government tends to blame everything on Boko Haram, so if a bank gets robbed, they say Boko Haram did it, even if that may not be true.”

“Boko Haram is not an organization and should not be compared to something like the Irish Republican Army,” he said. “It’s more of a movement that has a number of different strands in it.”

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About beegeagle

BEEG EAGLE -perspectives of an opinionated Nigerian male with a keen interest in Geopolitics, Defence and Strategic Studies
This entry was posted in AFRICA, AFRICAN ARMED FORCES, ARMED CONFLICT, BOKO HARAM ISLAMIC STATE MOVEMENT, BORDER SECURITY, COUNTERINSURGENCY OPERATIONS, GLOBAL DEFENCE NEWS, JOINT SECURITY TASK FORCE, NIGERIA, NIGERIA IMMIGRATION SERVICE, NIGERIA POLICE FORCE, NIGERIAN AIR FORCE, NIGERIAN ARMED FORCES, NIGERIAN ARMY, NIGERIAN MILITARY HISTORY, NIGERIAN NAVY, NIGERIAN PARAMILITARY FORCES, NIGERIAN SPECIAL FORCES, RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM, RISK ANALYSIS, SECURITY ISSUES AND CONCERNS, SEPARATISM, SPECIAL TASK FORCE, STATE SECURITY SERVICE, TERRORISM, URBAN GUERRILLA WARFARE, WEST AFRICAN STANDBY FORCE and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to NIGERIA ISLAMIST SECT DRAWING INCREASED SCRUTINY – WASHINGTON TIMES

  1. beegeagle says:

    OK, there go Mallam Shehu’s revisionists yet again. You begin to wonder when so much misinformation is oozing forth from supposedly objective internationals masquerading as experts – let us concede that they may be that for people in their own countries but are demonstrably too poorly grounded on Nigerian affairs to be remarkable to anyone of us.

    * When Jon Campbell says “southern government” does he mean the Federal Government of Nigeria? The Constitution, desirous of ensuring as broad a national base for any President clearly stipulates that in addition to garnering a simple majority in the plurality of votes cast, a President-elect must score at least ONE QUARTER(25%) of the total votes cast in a minimum of TWO THIRDS (24 states) of Nigeria’s 36 states. Dr Jonathan vastly exceeded ALL those requirements and Jon Campbell can sit where he is to mention “southern government?” . Did that stem from subjectivity (reading Mallam’s script) or outright ignorance?

    * Prof Jean Herskovits again. True to Mallam Shehu’s mentorship, the blame for BH outrages lies elsewhere – the quest for mitigating justification?

    * Ms Donnelly and Mrs Comolli – nothing new. By the time that we hear a bit more from these obscure ones, we shall know if their source and mentor is also the “respected northern-based activist”, Mallam Shehu.

    For now, they are probably living in denial. LAST WEEK, Nigeria was, for the first time ever, invited to the meeting of the quadrilateral security partnership which suffices between Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania, as an observer.

    The reasons for this were clearly itemised as follows;

    * To present the evidence of BH-AQIM cooperation to the Nigerian government.

    * To explore the possibilities for joint COIN-CT operations against the threats with Nigeria as partner.

    Indeed, at the Global Counterterrorism Forum held last November in Algiers, the Algerian Deputy Foreign Minister for African and Maghrebian Affairs clearly stated that his country have evidence pointing to an AQIM-BH strategic alliance.

    At last week’s meeting of the Sahelian Counterterrorism Partnership which took place in Nouakchott, Mauritania, the Foreign Minister of Mali(Mr Maiga) and his Nigerien counterpart(Mr Bazoum) both pointed to the existence of a AQIM-BH working relationship in Mali and Niger.

    Whereas TIME magazine carried a report last September which hinted at the training of BH insurgents by AQIM in the mountains of Mali, the Malian Foreign Minister’s reiteration of that fact last week goes to show that there is a lot more than meets the eye, even if unknown to Donnelly and Comolli.

    Recently, 7 suspected BH insurgents were arrested by security operatives in Niger as they transited through that country enroute Mali with explosive materiel intended for AQIM.

    Yet the voluble specialists and experts seated comfy in the Western World presumably know better than the governments of the region.

    To cap up her dalliance with the ludicrous, Donnelly states that terrorism is a new phenomenon in Nigeria. Really? Well, here are the facts for the Africa Programme to chew on.

    When the incomparably bloody Maitatsine uprising in Kano (18 Dec 1980 – 3 January 1981) which officially claimed 4,177 lives kicked off, a highpoint of that affair was muslim-on-muslim violence. The Maitatsine sect, to the great irritation of the Sunni mainstream, insisted that it was wrong for muslims to pray with their heads bowed towards Mecca. So when the orgy of violence kicked off, Maitatsine militants stormed mosques and in one infamous episode, opened fire on Sunni muslims bowed in prayer, instantly killing over 150 faithfuls.

    If that is not terrorism aimed at forcing down one’s religious persuasions on others, what is?

    These suspiciously ignorant but cockily styled “experts”….

  2. doziex says:

    Beeg, here is a popular refrain from these quasi experts, ” My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the FACTS”. (LOL)
    As Jimmy Hollyee said, no one is paying them the attention which they crave. But I think we should er on the side of caution.
    Nigerian information ministry should be forward leaning and proactive. Please employ young nigerians that are bright and have expertise in the modern forms of media. e.g website management, youtube, face book, twitter , skype etc.

    We should also do better in using the more traditional forms of information dissemination. e.g Investigative journalism, effective photo and film journalism, documentries and the use of experts aka pundits aka “talking heads” to report information requiring some expert knowledge.

  3. peccavi says:

    Guys we worry ourselves too much about what forein ‘experts’ write or claim. They are talking heads and get their info from whatever sources they see fit.
    Lets look at this professionally and define viewpoints
    1) Which medium do these write ups appear and what audience are these articles written for?
    2) What conclusions do they draw and what actions do they advocate?
    3) What actions do we want from Foreign powers and what conclusions do we want them to draw?
    4) How does Nigeria tie into their strategic, economic and military planning?

    Finally
    5) How does one influence foreign powers to draw the appropriate conclusions and undertake the correct actions?

  4. Ali muhammad says:

    Boko haram share the same root. They were sponsored by christians

  5. Ali muhammad says:

    Boko haram share the same root with maitatsine, both were sponsored by christians. It was discovered that maitatsine was sent to kano from papromam palace through fomer presdent of u.s william, the same thing with boko haram, some rich chritians are sponsoring boko haram undergroundly in order to tanish image of islam, because christians are ebraze islam

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