The aim of jihad in all of its forms is to impose Sharia law. That is why jihadist movements find common cause with one another, sometimes over vast geographical distances, and it is why purportedly “regional” jihadist conflicts become globally interconnected.
Think jihad globally, wage jihad locally. “Al-Qaeda’s hand in Boko Haram’s deadly Nigerian attacks,” by David Blair for the Telegraph, February 5:
The radical Islamist group, based in northern Nigeria, once specialised in robbing banks and attacking defenceless Christian congregations. In the past month, however, its gunmen or suicide bombers have struck 21 times, killing at least 253 people.
The Daily Telegraph understands this transformation has come about partly because of the help Boko Haram has received from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a branch of the international terrorist network based in the Saharan states of Mali, Niger and Algeria.
Boko Haram demonstrated its new potency on Jan 20, when at least 100 of the movement’s fighters executed eight assaults in Nigeria’s northern city of Kano, overwhelming the security forces and killing 185 people.
This operation bore all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda: a mixture of suicide bombers and gunmen, some in police or army uniform, carried out multiple, carefully coordinated attacks on hard targets.
Boko Haram destroyed two police stations and the regional police headquarters, and damaged the local office of the State Security Service, Nigeria’s version of MI5.
Al-Qaeda’s influence was also evident from the choice of weapons: car bombs exploded outside some targets, while police found caches of “improvised explosive devices”, with detonators and shrapnel packed into soft drinks cans.
Since then, Boko Haram has kept up the momentum, launching night raids on two more police stations in Kano.
Officials and experts in the Nigerian capital of Abuja believe Boko Haram has learnt its new capabilities from AQIM. Niger, a key operating theatre for AQIM, shares a largely unmarked frontier with Nigeria, spanning 900 miles of desert and scrub.
Boko Haram probably has little need for weapons or money as its fighters are accomplished bank robbers and whenever they raid a police station, they usually empty the armoury. AQIM’s contribution is most likely to be in tactics and expertise, with Boko Haram fighters taken out of Nigeria for training.
While the country has a long history of political and religious violence, experts point to the novelty of Boko Haram’s techniques.
“Suicide bombing was, until recently, something we saw in the movies,” said Chinedu Nwagu, a security analyst from the Cleen Foundation, which monitors Nigeria’s justice system.
“People never thought that anybody here would do that”.
The Kano attacks, he added, showed a degree of “coordination that you would not just pick up without very specialised training”….