News / Africa

Nigeria Pursuing Link Between Al-Qaida, Boko Haram

Suspected members of Boko Haram sect enter the federal High court  where they are accused of plotting bombings that killed 25 people, Abuja, September 23, 2011.
Suspected members of Boko Haram sect enter the federal High court where they are accused of plotting bombings that killed 25 people, Abuja, September 23, 2011.

Nigeria's government says Islamic militants in northern states are linked to al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists in the Sahel and in Somalia.

Definitively proving that link has brought more international attention to Nigerian terrorism, but may be overshadowing its domestic causes.

Nigeria's State Security Service says terrorists from the Boko Haram sect are linked to Somalia's al-Shabab militia, and the group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates across the Sahel from Mauritania to Niger.

Boko Haram claims responsibility for the bombing of U.N. headquarters in the Nigerian capital, as well a series of assassinations and ambushes across northern states as part of what it says is a campaign for an independent, Sharia-led nation.

Linking Boko Haram to al-Qaida has made Nigerian terrorism a bigger international issue. Britain is boosting intelligence sharing and technological support. The United States is helping track Boko Haram funding through a program established after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Boko Haram's support

Shehu Sani heads Nigeria's Civil Rights Congress and has written extensively about Boko Haram. He is not convinced of the group's direct links with al-Qaida, but said it is clear there is significant outside support.

“What we still can not deny here in this country is the links between sects in Nigeria and their benefactors from other parts of the world,” said Sani.

Sani said there are many foreign-backed Islamic sects in northern Nigeria that are far larger than Boko Haram. But because they operate peacefully, they attract little outside attention. Sani said Nigeria must focus more on Boko Haram recruiting students who study abroad.

“There is no agency of government in Nigeria today that has data of young people from northern Nigeria that are in Afghanistan, that are in Yemen, that are in Pakistan, that are in countries in the Middle East. But every month, every quarter, you have hundreds of young people in northern Nigeria given scholarships to study in those countries. And there is no tracking methods. There is no follow-up. There is no vetting.  And there is virtually no interest,” said Sani.

Boko Haram's methods

Nigerian defense and counter-terrorism analyst Husaini Monguno doubts al-Qaida's direct support for Boko Haram because their methods have little in common. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, for example, principally kidnaps foreigners for ransom, while Boko Haram works within local communities to bomb crowded places.

“If you look at the pattern of al-Qaida operation, it is quite different from Boko Haram. If you happen to be a Maiduguri man or a Borno State [man], all the Boko Haram members are known," said Monguno. "They are not hidden. And they try to push for their own agenda openly. They are not afraid of anybody. But al-Qaida things are secretive. Even the intelligence community in the whole world are having difficulties in trying to see who are behind those types of operations.”

University of Abuja sociology professor Abubakar Umar Kari said the government's linking of Boko Haram to al-Qaida risks ignoring the underlying causes of the violence, which he said include poverty and injustice. It may also overlook other domestic contributors to the violence, as Kari said opponents of President Goodluck Jonathan may be using the cover of Boko Haram to mask their own political attacks.

“The more you look at it, the less you understand. But what is very, very clear is that the Boko Haram phenomenon has become a metaphor. They have become a scapegoat for whatever attack,” said Kari.

Boko Haram's violence

Monguno said political involvement with Boko Haram is most evident in how the group changed after Nigeria's 2003 election.

“What I believe the intelligence agencies should do is to try to see who are Boko Haram prior to 2003 election and after 2003 election. Boko Haram was nothing before 1999. I do believe that there are politicians who are using this group to try to perpetrate danger within the country,” said Monguno.

Sani said Boko Haram accelerated its campaign of violence following the death of its leader Mohammed Yusuf in police custody in 2009. Police said Yusuf was killed while trying to escape. Five members of the police force currently are on trial in connection with his death.

A presidential committee on northern violence says the police trial “should be expedited and publicized to convey to the public the government's sincerity on the issue.”

The committee is recommending talks with Boko Haram, but only after it renounces all forms of violence and surrenders its arms. Boko Haram has refused previous offers because of what is says is a military build-up in northern states.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs