Boko Haram: New Security Threat for US in Nigeria

The U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, issued a warning Nov. 5 indicating that it had received intelligence that the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram may have been planning to bomb several targets in the Nigerian capital during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, also known as Eid al-Kabir, celebrated Nov. 6-8.  The warning specifically mentioned the Hilton, Nicon Luxury, and Sheraton hotels as potential targets.  An Associated Press count shows the group has killed at least 330 people this year alone.

Boko Haram ("Western education is a sin") is a Nigerian Islamist group that seeks the imposition of sharia law throughout the whole of Nigeria.  The group believes that Western education is anathema.

Many experts on Boko Haram note that the group's suicide bombing on 26 August 2011, which destroyed the U.N. building in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, reveals a link with al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM).  Before the attack, an internal Nigerian intelligence document had discussed possible links between Boko Haram and AQIM.  General Carter Ham, the general at the top of the United States African Command (AFRICOM), speculated that Boko Haram might want to establish a partnership with the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, in addition to with AQIM.

Since 2000, incidents of conflict involving radical Islamist groups have increased significantly.  There have been two Taliban rebellions in 2003 and 2004 in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Bauchi.  An obscure group speaking Arabic in a Chad dialect attacked the police in metropolitan Kano on Election Day in April 2007.  On Christmas day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab ("the underwear bomber"), scion of a prominent northern Nigerian banker, attempted to blow up a Delta Airlines flight over Detroit.  Video evidence proves that he was recruited, trained, and armed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

In January 2010, the leader of AQIM, 'Abd al-Malik Droukdal, released a statement offering to provide training and material assistance to Boko Haram.  These connections notwithstanding, as of September 2011, several experts doubt the actualized alliance between the two groups, noting the lack of public hard evidence linking Boko Haram and AQIM.

On Nov. 2, Nigerian authorities claimed to have foiled a bomb plot planned for the Eid holiday.  A man they arrested in connection with the plot allegedly possessed explosives that he planned to use to create package bombs.  The arrest probably resulted from the house-to-house searches in Maiduguri that came after an arms amnesty for militants ended Oct. 31.

Nigeria is the most populous African country and one of the most densely populated countries in the world.  With approximately 150 million people, half the country is Muslim and half is Christian (though many Nigerians follow traditional religions).  Muslim population predominates in the north while Christians predominate in the south.  The Muslim north is anchored in agricultural resources; southern Nigeria, an area that includes Lagos, holds the vibrant commercial capital and the business hub for much of West Africa, including the Niger Delta region, home to about 90 percent of the country's large crude oil and natural gas sector.

The USA has defined the Gulf of Guinea as a new energy security zone, one expected to supply 25% of American imports by 2025, with Nigeria destined to provide 60%-70% of these oil imports.  Nigerian crude oil's light weight, low sulfur content, lower transport costs, and security advantage over the Persian Gulf fetch a premium price from U.S. refiners.  Today, oil and natural gas represent at least 37%-40% of Nigeria's GDP, 95% of its foreign exchange earnings, and 83% of federal government revenue, with estimated annual export value of $90 billion in 2008.

Nigeria as a country is strategically situated in a volatile part of Africa.  As the conflicts there drive away investors from the Middle East, thanks to the new "Arab Spring," the expansion of the oil industry in Nigeria may look to be a safe bet for global oil companies.  With the global economy in turmoil and the Middle East in transition, a group like Boko Haram can harm U.S. interests throughout Africa.  A potential merger with other groups such as Al Shabab would escalate the Afghan-style terror even further, not to mention allow for a new base for al-Qaeda in Africa.

The U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, issued a warning Nov. 5 indicating that it had received intelligence that the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram may have been planning to bomb several targets in the Nigerian capital during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, also known as Eid al-Kabir, celebrated Nov. 6-8.  The warning specifically mentioned the Hilton, Nicon Luxury, and Sheraton hotels as potential targets.  An Associated Press count shows the group has killed at least 330 people this year alone.

Boko Haram ("Western education is a sin") is a Nigerian Islamist group that seeks the imposition of sharia law throughout the whole of Nigeria.  The group believes that Western education is anathema.

Many experts on Boko Haram note that the group's suicide bombing on 26 August 2011, which destroyed the U.N. building in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, reveals a link with al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM).  Before the attack, an internal Nigerian intelligence document had discussed possible links between Boko Haram and AQIM.  General Carter Ham, the general at the top of the United States African Command (AFRICOM), speculated that Boko Haram might want to establish a partnership with the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, in addition to with AQIM.

Since 2000, incidents of conflict involving radical Islamist groups have increased significantly.  There have been two Taliban rebellions in 2003 and 2004 in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Bauchi.  An obscure group speaking Arabic in a Chad dialect attacked the police in metropolitan Kano on Election Day in April 2007.  On Christmas day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab ("the underwear bomber"), scion of a prominent northern Nigerian banker, attempted to blow up a Delta Airlines flight over Detroit.  Video evidence proves that he was recruited, trained, and armed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

In January 2010, the leader of AQIM, 'Abd al-Malik Droukdal, released a statement offering to provide training and material assistance to Boko Haram.  These connections notwithstanding, as of September 2011, several experts doubt the actualized alliance between the two groups, noting the lack of public hard evidence linking Boko Haram and AQIM.

On Nov. 2, Nigerian authorities claimed to have foiled a bomb plot planned for the Eid holiday.  A man they arrested in connection with the plot allegedly possessed explosives that he planned to use to create package bombs.  The arrest probably resulted from the house-to-house searches in Maiduguri that came after an arms amnesty for militants ended Oct. 31.

Nigeria is the most populous African country and one of the most densely populated countries in the world.  With approximately 150 million people, half the country is Muslim and half is Christian (though many Nigerians follow traditional religions).  Muslim population predominates in the north while Christians predominate in the south.  The Muslim north is anchored in agricultural resources; southern Nigeria, an area that includes Lagos, holds the vibrant commercial capital and the business hub for much of West Africa, including the Niger Delta region, home to about 90 percent of the country's large crude oil and natural gas sector.

The USA has defined the Gulf of Guinea as a new energy security zone, one expected to supply 25% of American imports by 2025, with Nigeria destined to provide 60%-70% of these oil imports.  Nigerian crude oil's light weight, low sulfur content, lower transport costs, and security advantage over the Persian Gulf fetch a premium price from U.S. refiners.  Today, oil and natural gas represent at least 37%-40% of Nigeria's GDP, 95% of its foreign exchange earnings, and 83% of federal government revenue, with estimated annual export value of $90 billion in 2008.

Nigeria as a country is strategically situated in a volatile part of Africa.  As the conflicts there drive away investors from the Middle East, thanks to the new "Arab Spring," the expansion of the oil industry in Nigeria may look to be a safe bet for global oil companies.  With the global economy in turmoil and the Middle East in transition, a group like Boko Haram can harm U.S. interests throughout Africa.  A potential merger with other groups such as Al Shabab would escalate the Afghan-style terror even further, not to mention allow for a new base for al-Qaeda in Africa.

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