Nigeria’s Boko Haram Threatens to Expand Attacks in AfricaMustapha Muhammad
The Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram released a new video threatening to attack more African countries after leaders on the continent agreed to form a joint force to fight the insurgents.
“You will see what we will do to you,” Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader, said in a 36-minute unverified video posted on YouTube, making reference to leaders from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. “African leaders you are too late if you start attacking me now.”
The African Union, at a meeting of representatives from 13 countries in Niamey, the capital of Niger, backed plans by a number of states to form a joint force to battle Boko Haram. Chad has deployed troops to assist in fighting the group in Cameroon. Boko Haram has unleashed a violent campaign since 2009 to impose Islamic law in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy.
“Given the poor history of information sharing and general mistrust between these countries, major coordinated operations involving Nigerian, Cameroonian and Chadian forces targeting Boko Haram’s operational bases and positions are unlikely to take place in the immediate term,” Poole, U.K.-based security consultancy Drum Cussac said in an e-mailed report.
In the video, Shekau claimed responsibility for attacks this month that razed the northeastern Nigerian town of Baga. Carrying an AK-47 rifle and flanked by masked fighters and Hilux trucks with mounted machine guns, Shekau said the group had confiscated military hardware at the multinational military base in the town.
“These weapons you are seeing, we got them from Baga’s military base,” Shekau said, before firing his automatic rifle into the air.
Nigeria’s military has repeatedly claimed to have killed Shekau, and in October the authorities said they had agreed a cease-fire with Boko Haram. Since then, violence in the north of Africa’s most populous nation has continued unabated.
The attacks in Baga near the border with Chad provoked international condemnation with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying he was “appalled” by the raids. Reports that as many as 2,000 people died in the assaults are unfounded, Nigeria’s military said, with initial evidence showing the death toll didn’t exceed 150.
“The fall of Baga and the massacre of hundreds of its residents in early January have further reinforced the perception that the Boko Haram insurgency was becoming increasingly regional,” said Drum Cussac. “Baga’s strategic location along the shores of Lake Chad would allow the Islamist outfit to escalate and intensify cross-border attacks against targets in Chad and Niger.”
The violence in the Nigeria’s northeast also threatens to disrupt voting in the nation’s presidential election, scheduled for Feb. 14.
Boko Haram killed 4,740 people last year, more than double in 2013, according to estimates by Bath, England-based risk consultancy, Verisk Maplecroft.
The video is the latest in a series released by the militant group, which only communicates via posting the footage on the Internet or sending it to local reporters.
Shekau earlier this month expressed support for the attackers who killed 12 people at the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and threatened Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, whose armed forces have intensified their campaign against the rebels’ cross-border incursions.