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Boko Haram’s Terrorist Escalation
Posted By Frank Crimi On September 1, 2011 @ 12:17 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 1 Comment
The bombing of a UN building by the Nigerian Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram is the second suicide attack launched by the organization in two months. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s government seems more intent on finding accommodation with the al-Qaeda-linked terror group than in fighting it.
The latest suicide bombing delivered by Boko Haram occurred last week when a car stuffed with explosives was driven into the UN headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abjua, killing 23 people and wounding 81. That bombing followed a similar deadly strike in June when a Boko Haram car bomb exploded at Nigeria’s national police headquarters in Abjua, killing six people.
Until the last two suicide bombings, Boko Haram’s campaign of bombings, murder and assassination against the Nigerian government and its security forces had been waged in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim northern states, in particular the Nigerian state of Borno.
In fact, only a week before the UN bombing in Abjua, police said they shot and killed a man attempting to drive a car “loaded with several cylinders of gunpowder and gasoline” into police headquarters in Borno’s capital city of Maiduguri. That foiled plot had been preceded in June by a deadly attack in Maiduguri in which Boko Haram members riding motorcycles threw bombs into an outdoor beer garden, killing 25 people.
Now, however, in its quest to turn Nigeria into a Sharia-governed Islamist state, Boko Haram seems intent on expanding its scope of deadly operations into Nigeria’s predominantly Christian south.
While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bombing, he made no mention of using the assault to formally urge that Boko Haram be declared a terrorist organization and thus have it placed on the UN Security Council’s consolidated terrorist list.
For his part, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan reacted to the UN bombing by calling it “barbaric, senseless and cowardly,” and vowing to hold the attackers responsible. Yet, despite his tough words, the dismal truth is that Jonathan has been more content with waging a war of words with the terrorist group than confronting it.
Specifically, shortly after Boko Haram’s first suicide bombing in June, Jonathan’s reaction was to create a seven-member government panel to open talks and negotiate with the terrorist group, even sweetening the pot by offering amnesty to any Boko Haram members who voluntarily laid down their weapons.
Moreover, Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS), which claimed to have arrested some members of Boko Haram involved in the June suicide bombing, said it had no intention of prosecuting them. As one Western intelligence official has noted, “The Nigerian government appears to have only a shaky grasp of how to confront the [Boko Haram] threat.”
Of course, it should be noted that the Nigerian government’s soft approach toward Boko Haram may have less to do with its acceptance of the terror group and more to do with its inability to directly take it on.
The Nigerian government’s security impotence was detailed in a recently released US State Department report entitled “Country Reports on Terrorism 2010.” The report cited widespread corruption and a lack of capacity within Nigeria’s police and security forces, shortcomings which have made them unable to “detect and apprehend terrorists and criminals transiting the country’s borders.”
Furthermore, the report also described the Nigerian Navy as being incapable of effectively patrolling its coastal waters, thereby making Nigeria’s Niger Delta region and its offshore oil sites more vulnerable to attacks by both terrorists and criminals.
So, given the Nigerian government’s security weaknesses, it’s not surprising that Boko Haram has continuously rebuffed the Nigerian government’s peace overtures. In fact, the terror group has only intensified its terror campaign by exploiting its operational partnership with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Shabab, Somalia’s Islamist terrorist group.
For years, Boko Haram’s ties to these two al-Qaeda-linked organizations have been strongly suspected. As one Nigerian military spokesperson recently said, the presence of AQIM in nearby African countries — like Mali, Niger, Algeria, Chad and Cameroon — makes it “very easy” for Boko Haram to establish links with al-Qaeda.
Yet, to be fair, Boko Haram hasn’t been shy about announcing its links to al-Qaeda. Days before it launched its June suicide attack on the Nigerian police headquarters, the terror group released a statement which read in part, “Our jihadists have arrived in Nigeria from Somalia where they received real training on warfare from our brethren who made that country ungovernable.”
It goes without saying that making Nigeria ungovernable would produce terrible consequences for Africa and beyond. One such dismal outcome was evidenced in reports uncovered by British intelligence in July 2011 of a plot by al-Qaeda to make Nigeria a launching pad for attacks on Europe.
Moreover, the United States also has much to fear from an emboldened Boko Haram, given Nigeria’s role as a major supplier of crude oil to the United States. That fear was raised recently by General Carter Ham, head of the US Africa Command, who recently said that Boko Haram’s relationship with AQIM and al Shabab would be “the most dangerous thing to happen not only to the Africans, but to us as well.”
In fact, so great is the Boko Haram threat that reports have surfaced that indicates the United States is contemplating launching drone attacks inside Nigeria against Boko Haram, something the US has already been doing against al Shabab in Somalia.
According to these reports, the US will utilize a network of military bases to rapidly launch major operations into Nigerian airspace from “strategically placed military bases in the trans-Sahara.”
Giving those reports further credence is that the United States already enjoys a strong security presence in that part of Africa. In 2005, the United States established and funded the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), composed of governments in the pan-Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Burkina Faso) and trans-Sahara (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia).
Ironically, while the Nigerian government may be hesitant to approve such a military tactic, given its current stance toward Boko Haram, a new factor has emerged that may give it no choice but to acquiesce.
At the end of July, after much protest from the Nigerian government, Nigeria was removed from the US terror list as a country that harbors or sponsors terrorism against the United States and its allies. Nigeria had been placed on the list in January 2010 after Nigerian student Farouk Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab attempted, but failed, to bomb a plane in Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009.
Now, if the Nigerian government fails to quickly and forcefully work toward excising Boko Haram, it may find itself quickly back on that ignominious list.
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