In a recent speech on U.S. security interests in Africa, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out against Nigeria’s tactics in its fight with the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram to maintain control of its northern states. Since 2009, Boko Haram has engaged in an insurgency to establish a separate Islamic state in Nigeria’s north. As a part of its campaign of terror, the group frequently attacks Christians living in Nigeria’s northern states. Hundreds of churches have been destroyed, thousands have been killed and countless have been displaced by Boko Haram’s violence. What should the U.S. be doing to stop Boko Haram?
6/11/2013 Nigeria (Washington Times) – The United States must do more than lecture embattled Nigeria, a strong U.S. ally in West Africa under assault from al Qaeda-linked Islamists sweeping across the region.
The terrorists have shown they can move quickly and seamlessly, attacking anywhere in the area, as shown by the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year and assaults on the Western-owned oil-and-gas facility in Algeria earlier this year.
Hectoring a U.S. ally, as Secretary of State John F. Kerry did with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan recently, only emboldens the militants.
Oil-rich Nigeria is threatened by the terrorist group Boko Haram, which Muslim cleric Mohammed Yusuf founded in 2002 to establish Islamic, or Shariah, law in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno. It soon evolved into a jihadist movement that threatens both the Muslim establishment and the Christian population.
With more than 170 million citizens, Nigeria is about 50.8 percent Christian and 47.8 percent Muslim, according to a 2011 survey by the Pew Foundation.
Yusuf built a religious school and mosque and recruited poorly educated and unemployed young men. The peaceful beginning turned into intermittent terrorist attacks, with Boko Haram soon wanting to create a separate Islamic nation, not just a Shariah-ruled state within the country.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has been responsible for killing thousands of people. These radical Islamists have used roadside bombs and suicide bombers. They have attacked Christians, destroyed churches and assaulted Muslims who criticize them. They also have kidnapped foreigners for ransom to help fund their operations.
The Washington Times in 2011 noted that Boko Haram posed “an emerging threat to the United States and is set to join other al Qaeda affiliates in plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland.” One need only remember the “underwear bomber,” a young Nigerian who tried to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009.
Islamists linked to al Qaeda have spread across the Sahel region of northern and western Africa. Boko Haram has established close ties with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, and al-Shabab in Somalia.
Army Gen. Carter Ham, former head of U.S. Africa Command, noted: “The three groups represent the greatest threats to security in the region.”
The Nigerian government has been concerned that attacks by Boko Haram and al Qaeda affiliates could have a devastating effect on the country’s southern oil producing region — the world’s 10th largest oil fields and fifth largest supplier of foreign oil to the United States.