- (Reuters/Olatunji Omirin)
Radical Muslim terror sect Boko Haram, who is responsible for killing hundreds of people this year in Nigeria, is now linked with global jihadist movements such as al Qaida, experts say.
Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, a senior military official in the Joint Military Task Force, spoke to reporters in the town of Maiduguri-the epicenter of violence and de facto Boko Haram headquarters.
"I see perfect links. It cuts across boundaries. Al Qaida has no boundary, Boko Haram has no boundary. All terrorists, one problem," said Mohammed, in front of Nigerian soldiers.
"Boko Haram is al Qaida," he said.
The sect has not stated its global ambitions and so a link to al Qaida does not necessarily preclude foreign terror strikes. Boko Haram’s stated mission is to turn Nigeria into a fundamentalist Islamic nation by instituting Shariah law; the institution of which has been the source of much violence in the past year.
Nigerian President Goodluck Johnathan is facing mounting pressure from all sides. He tried to assure investors Thursday in the capital city of Abuja that Boko Haram posed no economic threat to the country. Earlier this week, Christian organizations urged for military support to be sent to the region.
A curfew was issued in the contentious Kaduna state yesterday. Soldiers were deployed, but the curfew was lifted after only 8 hours. Shortly after the curfew was lifted, a local leader and his wife were found murdered.
The terror sect moved into Maiduguri this week after violence last weekend killed 100 people in the town and forced every Christian to vacate the area. Mohammed says Boko Haram’s occupation of the town will only help them recruit members from the economically depressed region and from nearby nations.
"Maiduguri has been a harbor for people from Chad, from Niger, from Cameroon. Now [...] the people they have invited have now become a source of terror," Mohammed told reporters.
Soldiers now occupy the town as well, and officials hope their presence will help deter Boko Haram from getting comfortable in the town.
"I can tell you many people have been co-operating with us and we have collected many arms," Mohammed said. "Maiduguri is no longer a safe haven [for Boko Haram]."
Despite complaints from Christians and persecuted natives in the region, Mohammed claims law enforcement is doing everything it can to remove Boko Haram from the area.
The terror sect, whose name translates to “western education is sacrilege,” is responsible for killing hundreds of people over the past year including two women in a church last weekend.
Nigeria is split nearly in half by Christians (who occupy the south) and Muslims (who occupy the north). The middle of the country has been a region of violence as Boko Haram attempts to gain influence throughout the country.