Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nigeria: Most Governments Seem to Really Know Very Little About Boko Haram

According to Reuters, and reading between the lines of a number of news reports filed by multiple sources regarding the Nigerian terror group, Boko Haram (BH), it seems  clear that after nearly five years, most foreign governments really know very, very little about the group.

Otherwise, such governments would be telling the world what they do know, in keeping with their failure to adhere to the doctrine, "loose lips sink ships."

"Our suspicions are that they are surviving on very lucrative criminal activities that involve kidnappings," US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a recent interview. 


The truth be told, the US Department of State didn't even designate Boko Haram as a terror group until November 14, 2013, some five years after the group began functioning! Hello Washington!

See http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085 

COMMENT: One way of attempting to explain why the US is coming late to the "party" is largely because most cabinet secretaries "talk a lot," but are not particularly gifted at "multi-tasking."

Although the US Government relies heavily on the Internet to track financial transactions on the part of terrorist groups, the reality is that Boko Haram has gotten wise to the US "mo," and gone underground to conceal their activities.

The bottom-line is that Boko Haram takes advantage of Nigeria's huge geographical layout (twice the size of California), its porous borders that are ineffectively policed and its reliance on loyal couriers to move money around the country.
 
In designating Boko Haram as a terrorist organization as late as November 14, 2013, the Obama Administration characterized the group as a violent extremist organization with links to al-Qaeda, although it is uncertain as to whether such a statement has been established as a formidable linkage.


According to the US Treasury Department,  REUTERS has been told that the US has seen evidence of links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), a franchisee of the original gang of "usual suspects" from the pre-9/11 days.
 
At best, Boko Haram's  financing remains very much a "paper-and-pencil" operation, very likely to intentionally skirt the Treasury Department's reach.

At best, if there is a relationship between Boko Haram and AQIM, it pales compared to the cash being gathered from mass hostage-takings and commercial kidnappings that go well beyond seven figures.
 
In February 2013, gunmen on motorcycles snatched Frenchman Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, his wife and four children, and his brother while they were on holiday near the Waza national park in Cameroon, close to the Nigerian border.


Rumors suggest that the terror group was paid an equivalent of US$3.15 by French and Cameroonian negotiators before the hostages were released, according to a confidential Nigerian government report later obtained by REUTERS. 

There are also indicators that Boko Haram receives support from Muslim sympathizers inside the country, including some wealthy professionals and northern Nigerians who dislike the government, although little evidence has been made public to support that assertion.

By and large, Boko Haram is a low-budget operation made up mostly of AK-47s, some RPG capability and low-cost IED production. 

If the group needs "logistical augmentation," it quickly assembles an overpowering force, overwhelms them and steals what they need. Period.
 
In February, dozens of Boko Haram fighters converged on a remote military outpost in the Gwoza hills in northeastern Borno state, looting 200 mortar bombs, 50 rocket-propelled grenades and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. That's the way they operate: stealing from the Nigerian military.