We now review excerpts from 'Nigeria's Taliban': How Big a Threat?, dated July 30, 2009. With the ongoing violence in Nigeria today, it is important to keep in mind this article is from two years ago.
The immediate crisis may be over in Nigeria, but the threat of violence remains. Government security forces today attacked a mosque filled with Islamist militants, killing scores of fighters and forcing more to flee. The militants, blamed for days of violence across the country's north, belong to a group known as Boko Haram, which aims to overthrow the federal government in Abuja and impose a strict version of Islamic law. The sect's leader Mohammed Yusuf escaped the raid along with some 300 of his men, but was later arrested and then died in custody according to police. Four days of clashes, sparked by attacks on police stations and government buildings, have killed at least 300 people.
The Boko Haram leader died in police custody; interesting in light of the allegations against Nigeria's security forces that we considered in Part 3.
Also known as Nigeria's Taliban, Boko Haram formed about eight years ago. A huge government operation against the group in 2004 ended with the police claiming victory. But five years on and the militants are back, stronger and more vicious. In the latest outbreak of violence, in Maiduguri, the capital of northeastern Borno state, militant gunmen assaulted police stations and engaged armored-personnel backed troops.
Africa's most populous country sits on a religious fault line. Its 150 million people are split almost evenly between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south. For many years, the northern Muslim élite have dominated Nigerian politics, using their positions to enrich themselves and their families.
The allegations are that it was a "northern Muslim élite" responsible for much of the corruption.
Skipping down a little:
Over the past few years a new breed of young Muslim activists, most of them educated and from the middle class, have aggressively embraced a stricter version of Islam, rejecting anything Western and Christian.
It seems this sect may have been founded by younger Muslims who were angry at corruption among their parents. Regardless, as if often the case, the terrorist organization has its foundation among educated, middle class Muslims.
The article concludes pointing out the concern that al Qaeda might gain a foothold here, and calling attention to a special place Osama bin Laden had assigned Nigeria in the world's jihad.
A month later, Nigeria's Vanguard reported that Boko Haram ressurects, declares total Jihad:
The Islamic sect Boko Haram has declared total Jihad in Nigeria, threatening to Islamise the entire nation by force of war.
WE SPEAK AS BOKO HARAM
For the first time since the Killing of Mallam Mohammed Yusuf, our leader, we hereby make the following statements.
1) First of all that Boko Haram does not in any way mean "Western Education is A sin" as the infidel media continue to portray us. Boko Haram actually means "Western Civilisation" is forbidden. The difference is that while the first gives the impression that we are opposed to formal education coming from the West, that is Europe, which is not true, the second affirms our believe in the supremacy of Islamic culture (not Education), for culture is broader, it includes education but not determined by Western Education.
2) That the Boko Haram is an Islamic Revolution which impact is not limited to Northern Nigeria, in fact, we are spread across all the 36 states in Nigeria, and Boko Haram is just a version of the Al Qaeda which we align with and respect. We support Osama bin Laden, we shall carry out his command in Nigeria until the country is totally Islamised which is according to the wish of Allah.
Having made the following statement we hereby reinstate our demands:
1) That we have started a Jihad in Nigeria which no force on earth can stop. The aim is to Islamise Nigeria and ensure the rule of the majority Muslims in the country. We will teach Nigeria a lesson, a very bitter one.
3) That we shall make the country ungovernable, kill and eliminate irresponsible political leaders of all leanings, hunt and gun down those who oppose the rule of Sharia in Nigeria and ensure that the infidel does not go unpunished.
It is not uncommon that analysts point to economic disparities as a source of the violence in Nigeria. But, the terrorists themselves point to Islamic ideology. Furthermore, at least some of the economic disparity is the fault of a corrupt "northern Muslim élite". Consequently, any analysis that does not factor in jihadist Islamic ideology is inadequate.
Fast forward to June 15, 2011, when an article in the Nigeria Daily News entitled Nigerian Islamist sect, Boko Haram vows fiercer, wider attacks quoted Boko Haram as declaring:
"Very soon, we will wage jihad...We want to make it known that our jihadists have arrived in Nigeria from Somalia where they received real training on warfare from our brethren who made that country ungovernable...," said the group in a handwritten statement.
"This time round, our attacks will be fiercer and wider than they have been," it said, adding it would target all northern states and the country's capital Abuja. The statement in Hausa, a widely spoken language in the North, was anonymously delivered to journalists in the North-eastern city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, where the attacks were concentrated.
The sect admitted links with a foreign Islamist group connected to Al-Qaeda, although security experts had already speculated that it had established ties with Islamists in North Africa.
Maiduguri featured in an attack only days later.
From Nigerian Boko Haram Islamists 'kill nurse' in Maiduguri, June 20, 2011:
Gunmen from Nigeria's radical Islamist sect Boko Haram have killed a nurse who was playing cards in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, according to police.
Police said four people were also wounded in the shooting at a bus stop in the city.
Of interest is the connection to foreign terrorist groups; this is an international Islamic extremist ideology that is manifesting itself locally in Nigeria. Boko Haram's statement specifically mentioned Somalia, and there are reasons to suspect other connections.
First, we look at excerpts from Boko Haram Declares War, dated June 27, 2011:
Few seem convinced by President Goodluck Jonathan's assurances that the security situation is under control following the bombing on 16 June of Louis Edet House, the national police headquarters in Abuja. It killed at least two people and wounded seven. Agents of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived to help investigate claims of international terrorist links.
Some immediate questions emerge from the latest round of attacks: Who is behind Boko Haram? How much foreign support has it got and how can it best be confronted? After downplaying its importance and regional ties for some years, Nigerian security officials now point to cross-border links.
It seems their tactics are working: security sources speak of training camps of Hausa-speaking Nigerians in Burkina Faso and Niger as well as a wave of new recruits to Boko Haram across northern Nigeria. It's harder to trace the international links, but some officials are taking seriously claims from Boko Haram that their militants, including bomb-makers, have been training in Somalia alongside Al Shabaab and Al Qaida operatives. There are also small, highly mobile affiliates of Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb across the Sahel, which could provide the training and the materiel to launch the type of bombings and guerrilla attacks that Boko Haram favours.
Also, in Part 2 we began reviewing a paper entitled Key Issues in Nigeria's 2011 Elections, dated March 29, 2011, by Sola Tayo. We now pick up with an excerpt from page 7:
Concerns about internal security are common during electoral periods, but the possible action of outsiders is also causing concern within the government. In November 2010 a shipment of arms was intercepted in Lagos. The intended destination of the shipment was unclear, although it is claimed it was to be re-exported to The Gambia. However the trafficked rockets and explosives, which came from Iran, were the responsibility of a Nigerian and two Iranians who have been charged with the importation of prohibited firearms. The incident caused a diplomatic storm which resulted in Nigeria reporting Iran to the UN Security Council for a possible arms violation. Although Nigeria has not severed diplomatic ties with Iran, the relationship (on the Nigerian side at least) is tense.
Whatever the intended destination of that shipment, the Nigerian government is understandably wary of arms shipments entering the country and ending up in the possession of militant groups. It is equally suspicious of direct interference by outsiders. In March 2010 the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, suggested that Nigeria be split in two to end the violence between Muslims and Christians. His comments provoked a strong reaction from the Nigerian government, with Abuja recalling the Ambassador in Tripoli and accusing Libya of trying to destabilize the country. The issue of partitioning the country into a Muslim north and Christian south is a deeply sensitive subject in Nigeria.
Gaddafi is not the only one to suggest this division of Nigeria; there are calls among Nigerians for a north/south (= Muslim/infidel) "divorce" and I am sure recent events in Sudan will fuel these calls. Also, the situation in Côte d'Ivoire, where a "northerner" of questionable Ivoirian credentials was installed by force by the international community, in violation of Ivoirian law, may set a precedent that worries the southerners in Nigeria.
The arms shipment addressed in the quoted passage above was quite substantial, too.
In fact, it was so substantial that some analysts suggested it was a new way to supply anti-Israeli terrorists forces. From Nigerian arms seizure may indicate new Iran-Hamas route, October 29, 2010.
Weapons discovered in 13 shipping containers in the Port of Lagos earlier this week could signify that Iran is trying to develop a new route to smuggle arms and explosives to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, defense officials said on Thursday.
The ship, apparently from Iran, reportedly docked in the Lagos Port on Tuesday and, according to the bill of lading, was supposed to be carrying construction supplies. On inspecting the 13 containers, customs officials discovered rockets, mortars, bombs, rifles and heavy machine guns hidden among crates of building tiles.
Nigerian officials were quoted in the media claiming that the cargo had been under surveillance for some time. It was possible that the intelligence on the cargo was supplied by Western sources.
"On opening the first container, the service operatives discovered rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives; the weapons were concealed among crates of floor tiles," Nigerian State Security Service spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar was quoted as saying.
The largest rocket appeared to be a 107-mm. Katyusha, which Iran is known to manufacture and which makes up the backbone of Hizbullah's and Hamas's arsenals.
Even if most of the weapons, including the rockets, are intended for Palestinian terrorists, it is not unreasonable to expect that local Nigerian jihadists might take a cut for helping move them.
So, we have Iranian arms smuggled into Nigeria, resulting in an international incident reported to the UN.
But, the report previously quoted above, Key Issues in Nigeria's 2011 Elections, only mentions the smuggled arms; why don't we hear about the heroin?
From From Iran: Customs intercept container of heroin at Tin-Can port, November 19, 2010 (I fixed misspellings of "heroin"):
LAGOS—Nigerian Customs Service has intercepted a large quantity of heroin concealed in a 40-foot container, which was believed to have originated from Iran. The container which was brought into the Tin-can Island Port [Nigeria's Tin Can Port - EL] was concealed among machine parts.
Also confirming the interception of the large quantity of hard drugs at the Tin-Can Island Port, Customs spokesman, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, said that about ten wraps of heroin each weighing 112kg had been off-loaded from the container.
It was also gathered that CMA-CGM, the shipping company that brought in the 13 containers of arms and ammunition intercepted recently at the Apapa Port, also brought the heroin-laden container.
The heroin and the arms were being moved via the same smuggling route, it appears.
Nigeria is a major oil-producing country. We now see arms- and heroin smuggling from Iran, and connections to international Islamic terrorist groups. Where have we seen this combination before: oil, heroin, and Islamic terrorists?
A November, 2009, NATO research paper entitled An assessment of crime related risks in the Sahel touches on the role played by Nigerian organized crime cartels, and points to increasing movement of marijuana and cocaine across the Sahel region. Of course, I have been pointing to the movement of arms, terrorism and heroin through this region, and alluding to (though not yet establishing) connections between events in Côte d'Ivoire and cocaine trafficking from South America to Europe.
Boko Haram is connected to international Islamic terrorists who, in turn, are connected to international arms- and narcotics traffickers. These connections run to Iran, to Somalia, and across the Sahara/Sahel region to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. They of course run through nearby countries; Burkina Faso was specifically mentioned. Burkina Faso is a significant player in the world of transnational smuggling, and is implicated in the situation in Côte d'Ivoire; in fact, Côte d'Ivoire's new strongman, Ouattara, is from Burkina Faso. Nigerian groups are also connected to movement of South American cocaine.
Boko Haram's ideology is shared with terrorists all over the world; the "Religion of Peace" is in fact an ideology of terrorism. But, it would be cut off at the knees without all the transnational organized crime activities that fund it, via smuggling of cocaine, heroin, arms and other commodities, and that supply it with potent weapons.
Unfortunately, though, our "War on Terror", or whatever they call it these days, will only deal the most superficial aspects of terrorism. Political correctness will not allow us to connect terrorism to Islam, and corruption and illicit money which finds its way to important officials in Washington from transnational organized crime will not allow us to effectively address terrorism in any case.