Wednesday, February 8, 2012

US weighs response as extremist group expands reach across Nigeria

Stars and Stripes
29 January 2012

By John Vandiver

A series of high-profile attacks in Nigeria in recent weeks that claimed scores of lives appear to be focused on fueling instability and mistrust between the country’s Christian and Muslim communities, and there is growing concern that the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram could be extending its reach and establishing links with other terrorist groups.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 253 people were killed in the first three weeks of 2012, including 185 killed in a series of attacks in the northern city of Kano, the nation’s second largest.

“Many of the attacks in the past month have specifically targeted Christians and southern Nigerians living in the north,” Human Rights Watch said.

But there is growing concern that Boko Haram could be seeking ties with other terrorist groups, making it a potential threat beyond the borders of Nigeria.

A recent United Nations report on development in West Africa warned of “growing concern in the region about possible linkages between Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb,” an al-Qaida affiliated group in north Africa.

The U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on homeland security also recommended in its own report that the U.S. increase its support for Nigerian counterterrorism efforts.

“It is critical that the U.S. work more closely with Nigerian security forces to develop greater domestic intelligence collection and sharing with the U.S. Intelligence Community,” stated the House report, titled “Boko Haram: Emerging Threat to the U.S. Homeland.” “Military cooperation is vital to a successful counterterrorism strategy.”

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