Boko Haram wing af­fil­i­ated to Is­lamic State sows new ter­ror

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

LA­GOS: A Boko Haram fac­tion with ties to Is­lamic State has be­come a deadly force ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing out highly-or­gan­ised at­tacks.

Gov­ern­ment forces have fo­cused on crush­ing the best-known branch of the Is­lamist mil­i­tant group whose leader Abubakar Shekau has led an eight-year in­sur­gency to cre­ate an Is­lamic state in the north-east which has killed thou­sands.

But while Nige­ria has claimed the cap­ture of Shekau’s main base in the Sam­bisa for­est and freed many of more than 200 school­girls ab­ducted by his fac­tion in April 2014 in Chi­bok town, a ri­val wing has de­vel­oped the ca­pac­ity to carry out at­tacks on a larger scale.

At least 37 peo­ple, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the team, res­cuers from the mil­i­tary and vig­i­lantes, died last week when se­cu­rity forces tried to free those be­ing held by the Boko Haram fac­tion led by Abu Musab al-Bar­nawi who is try­ing to thwart gov­ern­ment ef­forts to ex­plore for oil in the Lake Chad Basin.

That wing is bet­ter or­gan­ised than the Shekau fac­tion, which typ­i­cally staged sui­cide bomb­ings in mosques and mar­kets, said Malte Liew­er­scheidt, a se­nior Africa an­a­lyst at Verisk Maple­croft con­sul­tancy group.

“The Shekau fac­tion does not seem to have a clear ide­ol­ogy or any strat­egy.”

Liew­er­scheidt said that made it eas­ier for al-Bar­nawi’s fac­tion to re­cruit whereas Shekau’s fac­tion was not trusted by lo­cals.

And de­spite the as­sess­ment that it is less or­gan­ised, Shekau’s fac­tion has stepped up sui­cide bomb­ings in the last few weeks, killing more than 110 peo­ple since June 1, ac­cord­ing to a Reuters tally.

The com­bined at­tacks by the two wings marks a resur­gence by the group, months af­ter Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari’s an­nounce­ment in De­cem­ber that Boko Haram’s strong­hold in the Sam­bisa for­est had been cap­tured.

Boko Haram, which has killed more than 20 000 peo­ple and forced some 2.7 mil­lion to flee their homes since 2009, split last year.

The divi­sion led by Shekau op­er­ates in the north-eastern Sam­bisa for­est and usu­ally de­ploys girls as sui­cide bombers.

But, since Is­lamic State named al-Bar­nawi as Boko Haram’s leader in Au­gust last year, his Lake Chad fac­tion has been mov­ing fighters and am­mu­ni­tion across por­ous bor­ders in north-east Nige­ria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

The head of a pri­vate Nige­rian se­cu­rity firm, who did not want to be named, said al-Bar­nawi’s Is­lamic State af­fil­i­a­tion meant his wing ben­e­fited from sub-Sa­ha­ran trade routes to ship weapons from law­less Libya where Is­lamic State was ac­tive.

His group has been plan­ning a larger scale at­tack for some time, said a Western diplo­mat, speak­ing anony­mously.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Boko Haram mil­i­tants em­brace and shake hands with Boko Haram pris­on­ers, re­leased in ex­change for a group of 82 Chi­bok girls, who were held cap­tive by Is­lamist mil­i­tants, near Kumshe, Nige­ria, in May.

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