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A day after announcing its official partnership with al-Qaeda, the Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram launched Nigeria’s first suicide bombing. Sadly, the Nigerian importation of Islam’s favorite weapon of choice signals a serious escalation in an already brutal sectarian war.
According to Nigerian police, the suicide bomber in the capital city of Abuja drove a car loaded with explosives into Nigeria’s national police headquarters, killing himself and a Nigerian policeman. Boko Haram — often referred to as the Nigerian Taliban – took credit for the bombing.
Since 2009 Boko Haram has been engaged in an escalating and deadly battle with the Nigerian government in an effort to create a Sharia-ruled Islamist state in northern Nigeria. That fight encapsulates the growing rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Nigeria, one that has pitted the country’s predominantly Muslim North against its Christian South.
Yet, days before the suicide attack, Boko Haram had issued a statement setting conditions for a ceasefire with Nigeria’s government. However, those proposed talks with the Nigerian government immediately “collapsed” according to Boko Haram when Nigeria’s Inspector General, Hafiz Ringim, the next day declared the terror groups days to be “numbered.”
In response, Boko Haram issued another statement to not only threaten “fiercer” attacks but to also announce its new partnership with al-Shabab, Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked terror group: “Very soon, we will wage jihad…We want to make it known that our jihadists have arrived in Nigeria from Somalia where they received real training on warfare from our brethren who made that country ungovernable…”
That training was placed on horrid display the next day when Boko Haram launched its inaugural Somalia-trained suicide bomber. While that tragic event signaled Boko Haram’s increased determination to impose its deadly agenda, it also signaled al-Shabab’s capability to export terror tactics far beyond its own borders.
That fact is very unfortunate news for Nigerians as al-Shabab’s terror tactics –which focus on terrorizing civilians through executions, amputations and rape — are decidedly brutal, even by al Qaeda standards.
In fact, in the last several weeks, al-Shabab forces have cut off the arms of three teenagers accused of stealing; cut off the tongue of a young man accused of “mixed-gender handshakes”; and executed two teenagers for alleged spying.
Equally disturbing, given its new Somalia terror link and change in tactics, fears have been raised that Boko Haram has also joined with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). While neither Boko Haram nor AQIM have announced a strategic partnership, both terror groups have been on friendly terms for some time.
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