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Boko Haram
June 9, 2014

New HJS Briefing Exposes The Extent Of Security Threats Posed By Boko Haram

Greg Noone
Rosanna Rafel

In light of the massacre of upwards of 500 people by Boko Haram in Nigeria on 3 June 2014, following the kidnapping of 329 girls in Chibok, Nigeria on 14 April 2014, the latest strategic briefing from The Henry Jackson Society Terrorism in Nigeria: The Threat from Boko Haram and Ansaruprovides an assessment of the danger the terrorist group Boko Haram and its splinter group, Ansaru, pose to Nigeria, the region and the West. Surveying the diplomatic, military and intelligence landscape, Terrorism in Nigeria reveals the implications of the current, inadequate regional efforts towards defeating Boko Haram and Ansaru.

Among the briefing’s key findings:

  • Feeble International and Regional Response: Boko Haram remains the pre-eminent terrorist threat to Nigeria and Africa, with indications that the splinter group, Ansaru, has been partially re-integrated into their network. Boko Haram poses a threat not just to Nigeria, but also to the broader region as operations have also taken place in Cameroon and Niger, with members of the group taking part in attacks in Mali and Algeria. While Nigeria and her neighbours stand publicly united in their determination to combat the rise of Boko Haram and Ansaru, their rhetoric is undermined by serious deficiencies in bilateral and regional cooperation over border surveillance and intelligence. Cameroon remains a fertile recruiting ground and safe haven for Boko Haram, whilst the potential infiltration by jihadists of Nigerian refugee populations in Niger, pose a growing threat to innocent populations and regional security that has yet to be fully addressed.
  • Boko Haram’s Ties to Al-Qaeda: The links between Boko Haram and al-Qaeda are numerous and go back over a decade. Boko Haram is connected to at least six al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda affiliated groups: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in AfPak, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Ansar al-Din and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. It is with AQIM that Boko Haram’s main ties to al-Qaeda exist. Allegations of certain Boko Haram elements responding directly to AQIM leadership have recently surfaced; some foreign kidnappings pulled off by Boko Haram may have been ordered by AQIM.
  • Difficult Military and Intelligence Landscape: The sheer size and terrain of the area to cover are making even recognition via satellites and drones extremely tenuous. Additionally, Boko Haram has proven adept at merging into the general civilian population to mask their presence to Nigerian security forces. Any successful counter-insurgency campaign against the organisation must start with the construction of a reliable Human Intelligence network (HUMINT), which is currently lacking. Unfortunately, even with the best intelligence possible, Boko Haram can still thrive due to its supporters’ seeming penetration of the Nigerian political and security apparatus.
  • Considerations for the Future: While Boko Haram is generally perceived by the West as less of a threat than AQIM or al-Shabaab in Somalia, it has killed on a greater scale than both groups. This will soon change, especially if Boko Haram launches attacks against oil facilities in the Southern Niger Delta region. This would raise the stakes because it will involve economic interests, investments and the energy market as a whole.

Olivier Guitta, The Henry Jackson Society Research Director, said:

“The international community has been underestimating Boko Haram, even though it is in the top 3 of the bloodiest terrorist groups in the world. We hope our briefing will shed light on the urgency of this threat. The stakes are too high for the West not to get involved. The largest economy in Africa cannot be under the incessant menace of a jihadist group defacto in control of a portion of the country.”

‘Terrorism in Nigeria: The Threat from Boko Haram and Ansaru’ is available to download here.