Lagos – Videos have emerged purporting to show members of a Nigerian Islamist sect preparing for suicide attacks, including a young man said to be responsible for last month’s bombing of UN headquarters.
The two videos obtained by AFP are said to be from the sect known as Boko Haram and come as concern intensifies over whether it has formed links with outside groups such as al-Qaeda’s north African branch.
The possibility of such links has led to deep concern among Western nations and mounting pressure on the government in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its largest oil producer.
General Carter Ham, the head of the US military’s Africa Command, said on Wednesday that al-Qaeda’s north African branch, Shebab militants in Somalia and Boko Haram have expressed a will to “more closely collaborate and synchronise their efforts”.
Boko Haram’s attacks have grown increasingly sophisticated, and it had not been known to target international institutions before the United Nations bombing in Abuja.
A man who identified himself as a spokesperson for Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing on the day of the August 26 attack.
The two videos said to be from the group include speeches totalling about 25 minutes from the alleged UN bomber.
It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the videos, but they seem to offer a window into a form of Islamist extremism in Nigeria that authorities have so far shown little capability of addressing.
They bear hallmarks of past Boko Haram clips and feature speeches by a man identified as Abubakar Shekau, its suspected leader who went into hiding following a 2009 uprising by the group put down by a military assault.
While the sect was long considered a domestic group targeting symbols of Nigerian authority, the videos also show an international emphasis.
Funny how that keeps happening. See also: the former Salafist Group for Call and Combat, now al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and al-Shabaab. If they put bumper stickers on truck bombs, they might read “Think jihad globally. Wage jihad locally.”
They are mostly in the Hausa language widely spoken in the country’s mainly Muslim north, but also partly in Arabic.
Praising Osama bin Laden
The voice said to be Shekau’s calls the UN headquarters a “forum of all the global evil,” while also offering praise for Osama bin Laden.
The video focusing on the UN bombing, which killed at least 23 people and was among the deadliest targeting the world body, is more than an hour and 15 minutes long.
A soft-spoken, 27-year-old smiling man said to be the UN bomber pleads with his family to understand his actions, and a vague warning is sent out to “Obama and other infidels.”
During much of his time on the video, he holds an AK-47 while two others lean against the wall. Two gas canisters are on the floor at his feet.
He is rail-thin and wears a striped, polo-style shirt, a turban and what looks to be a suicide vest.
In a phone interview with AFP, a man who claimed to be a spokesperson for the sect identified the alleged bomber as Mohammed Abul Barra, a married auto repair worker with a son from the northeastern city of Maiduguri, where the group has carried out most of its attacks […]
The videos refer to the group by a name roughly translated as “People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad,” as a previous video has done.