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Boko Haram - 2010

After the July 2009 confrontations between Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces, in which several hundred persons died, many Boko Haram members had reportedly dispersed to neighboring countries to regroup, recruit, and train. The Nigerian military deployed a brigade of troops to the Borno state in July 2010 in anticipation of a violent retaliation by members of Boko Haram on the one-year anniversary of the death of their leader Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed by the police, but no attacks occurred on that date.

In 2010 al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM] publicly announced it would support Boko Haram with weapons and training. But the two groups have used different tactics. Operating in Mali, Niger and Algeria, AQIM is notorious for kidnappings - mostly of European workers and tourists - in alleged retaliation for foreign commercial exploitation of North Africa.

In April 2010 the Maiduguri High Court found that in 2009 police detained and subsequently killed Baba Fagu, the father-in-law of then Boko Haram leader Muhammad Yusuf, following violent clashes between police and militant members of Boko Haram in four northern states in 2009. The court ordered the federal and state governments to pay 100 million naira ($617,000) as compensation to Fagus family. The Borno State government challenged the Maiduguri High Courts decision and appealed the judgment.

On September 7, 2010, Boko Haram members stormed a prison in Bauchi State, freeing over 700 prisoners including about 100 sect members, and killed seven guards and bystanders. For the rest of 2010, Boko Haram members in Borno and Bauchi states attacked police, military, state officials, and anyone perceived as assisting the Nigerian government in efforts to bring Boko Haram members to justice. Approximately 50 individuals were killed and scores were wounded. Police and military personnel have since arrested over 150 Boko Haram members. On October 21, Boko Haram placed posters at key road intersections in northern Nigeria warning the local public against assisting police in apprehending members of the sect. Each poster bore the signature of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and warned that any Muslim that goes against the establishment of Sharia law will be attacked and killed. It has not been established whether AQIM and Boko Haram have operational links.

The group had typically gone after domestic targets, including Nigerian police and government institutions, in what is believed to be an effort to create a Sharia-ruled state. But that all changed with a major suicide bomb attack on a United Nations building in 2011 in the capital Abuja. The strike against the U.N. raised suspicion that Boko Haram, which has a stated Islamist agenda, is now operating on a larger scale, and strengthened the idea that it may have direct ties to al-Qaida. Over the years they changed their philosophy to focus on a more familiar jihadi world view that wants change in the country and sees itself as part of a global struggle. And they've made links with al-Shabab in Somalia and with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Algeria.

There are some elements who advocate what they call global jihad, to spread Islam from China to Chile, from Cape Town to Canada, which means they are going to assimilate the entire world. That's what you call the ideology of a section of al-Shabab, but it is not clear that this is shared with Boko Haram.

Nigerian security experts initially saw little role for the army in dealing with Boko Haram. Instead they preferred to focus on the underlying issues of Boko Harams discontent, a goal for which the military is not particularly well suited. Local police from the northern parts of the country were among the most under-funded and under-trained in the country, which already suffers from a lack of security capacity. The United States might address the fight against Boko Haram in the context of their Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCI), which is seeking to patrol the Sahara and neighboring Mauritania, Mali and Niger for radical elements.

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Page last modified: 20-08-2014 19:45:31 ZULU