A U.S. Congressional report released this week named Nigerian terror sect Boko Haram as an “emerging threat” to the United States and its citizens.
The report calls attention to recent actions and threats by the extreme Islamist terror group. Boko Haram is responsible for more than 500 deaths over the last two years and has targeted government buildings, churches and civilians throughout Nigeria.
“Boko Haram has quickly evolved and poses an emerging threat to U.S. interests and the U.S. homeland,” the 28-page report said. “The United States should work with the government of Nigeria to build counterterrorism and intelligence capability to effectively counter Boko Haram.”
The Nigerian government balked at warnings from the U.S. Embassy last month that Boko Haram would target luxury hotels in the capital city of Abuja. Days later, two oils tankers were exploded in separate attacks, killing five people – an attack believed to be executed by the terror sect.
The report says claims from the Nigerian government that Boko Haram is a “temporary problem” are misguided and that, if anything, the sect’s reach is broadening.
“Boko Haram’s attacks are occurring at their greatest frequency since the sect emerged from hiding in 2010,” the report said. “The sophistication of its tactics, use of the Internet, and its recent attack on the U.N. headquarters in Abuja all point to a dangerously evolving organization.”
Patrick Meehan, chairman of the committee that wrote the report, said efforts should be made to work with the Nigerian government to bolster security and stomp out Boko Haram
"We ought to put much more into developing local intelligence and relationships, and more into cooperating with Nigerian authorities to encourage them to help us work together to understand the nature of the threat," Meehan told the BBC.
The report does clarify that although Boko Haram poses an increasing threat to U.S. interests, it probably lacks the ability to strike American soil or property in a meaningful way.
That veneer of safety may be eliminated if action against Boko Haram is not taken within Nigeria. The report claims that Boko Haram is linking up with al-Qaeda, which is a conclusion that is corroborated by reports from regions of Nigeria where the terror group’s impact is most felt.
In addition to a potential al-Qaeda link, officials in the region say Boko Haram is aided by Islamist regimes in the region.
Nigerian Defense Minister Bello Haliru Mohammed said that ties have been made between Boko Haram and Niger to strengthen trade routes between the sect and Libya. The trade is cause for concern.
"We are very much aware of the movement of arms and explosives that were stolen from Libya," Mohammed told the Nigerian-owned newspaper, Tribune.
And just because it is unlikely Boko Haram can attack American soil does not mean that it cannot happen, the report affirms.
Boko Haram translates to “western religion is sacrilege.” The group’s stated goal is to implement Shariah law throughout Nigeria, but has engaged in indiscriminate attacks against any group of people who disagree with their violent fundamentalism.