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Global Issues: Terrorism ~ Boko Haram: a ‘new’  global terrorist threat?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
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Boko Haram’s series of bloody terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria has announced their activities to an international audience which is starting to take Boko Haram seriously as well as the deep challenges that Nigeria faces. Boko Haram is certainly of interest to Global Issues students - to what extent does it represent ‘new’ terrorism in terms of being seemingly jihadi [with alleged al-Qaeda links], embracing more modern technologies and destructives means and possibly having an international dimension.  Boko Haram has certainly sparked off a wide reaching international debate about its very nature and the extent to which it poses a global threat.

The Guardian, published on January 27, an interview with alleged Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa, conducted by Guardian Nigeria correspondent Monica Mark. In conjunction, the paper also included a careful analysis by Jason Burke that concludes the Boko Haram remains “a local phenomenon, not a global threat,” and an editorial that calls on President Goodluck Jonathan to address Nigeria’s religious divide and corruption, provide protection for all, and to redistribute state resources to accomplish those goals.  The article asserts:

Boko Haram’s gruesome rise has prised open crevices where ethnic, religious and socioeconomic fault lines intersect

Also the Telegraph has a piece: “‘We will attack Nigeria again and again’, Boko Haram leader vows’. It is reported that the purported leader of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist group responsible for hundreds of deaths in Nigeria has vowed to attack “again and again” until the country becomes an Islamic state. 

The full international impact of these attacks is also reflected in an excellent article in the Washington Times: Nigeria Islamist militant sect drawing increased scrutiny  The article is well worth a full read but here is an exerpt:

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.

And….

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.”


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