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NIGERIA’S HOME-GROWN ISLAMIC UPRISING POSES REGIONAL THREAT

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Thousands of
members of Nigeria’s home-grown Islamic
extremist Boko Haram group strike across the
border in Cameroon, with coordinated attacks
on border towns, a troop convoy and a major
barracks.
Farther north, Boko Haram employs recruits
from Chad to enforce its control in northeastern
Nigerian towns and cities.
In Niger, the government has declared a
“humanitarian crisis” and appealed for
international aid to help tens of thousands of
Nigerian refugees driven from their homes by
the insurgency.
These recent events show how neighboring
countries are increasingly being drawn into
Nigeria’s Islamic uprising. Thousands of people
have been killed in Nigeria’s 5-year insurgency
and some 1.6 million people driven from their
homes.
“We are concerned about the increasing
regionalization of Boko Haram,” said Comfort
Ero, Africa director for the
International Crisis Group. The
countries have been slow to
recognize “the gravity and extent of
the threat from Boko Haram.”
Ero cautioned that cooperation between the
neighboring countries is weak. “None of the
sides is willing to share information with the
other,” Ero said. “There’s always been a lack of
confidence in terms of shared regional security.”
She said there is also distrust of the capabilities
of Nigeria’s once-proud military, which has
been battered by Boko Haram. A court-martial
this week sentenced 54 soldiers to death by
firing squad for refusing to fight the extremists.
Chad responded this week by opening a regional
“counter-terrorism cell” against Boko Haram in
N’Djamena, Chad’s capital 40 miles (60
kilometers) from the Nigerian border, according
to an adviser to French Defense Minister Jean-
Yves Le Drian.
Boko Haram’s threat to neighboring countries
was highlighted on Wednesday, when some
5,000 insurgents launched simultaneous attacks
on border towns in Cameroon, that country’s
Ministry of Defense said. During the fighting,
the militants set off a roadside improvised
explosive device that hit a military convoy. They
also attacked the main border barracks at
Amchide town, the defense statement said.
Cameroonian troops repelled the attacks and
killed 116 militants, while losing a sergeant and
a lieutenant, it said, adding that Boko Haram
must have suffered additional casualties on the
Nigerian side caused by Cameroonian artillery
fire.
Fighters from Chad, Niger and Cameroon long
have been identified among Boko Haram
fighters in Nigeria. But residents fleeing Boko
Haram now report that Chadian recruits are
enforcing Boko Haram’s rule in northeast
Nigerian border towns in Borno state. People
who escaped from Gajigana village, which was
attacked a week ago, said fighters they called
“Chadian mercenaries” have taken charge of
most communities, even sitting in courts to
adjudicate local disputes.
“They monitor every movement, all the things
we do, the kind of people you meet with,” said
Kalli Abdullahi, who escaped to Maiduguri this
week and spoke to The Associated Press. If
residents break the strict Shariah law “they will
get you and kill you so as to instill fear in
people,” he said.
Nigerian government officials confirm that Boko
Haram controls 12 of 27 local government areas
in Borno state, as well as some in Adamawa and
Yobe states. And they long have had camps in
Chad, Cameroon and Niger, say experts.
The area where the four countries’ borders meet
is generally poor and long has been ignored by
governments. Desertification has intensified
tensions. High unemployment means there are
groups of disgruntled youths who are an easy
target for Boko Haram recruitment. Across
borders, people often belong to the same tribe
and speak the same local languages. Boko
Haram offers signing bonuses and monthly pay
to those who join, say residents.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau long has
expressed his international ambitions, saying
his group is fighting to make “the entire world”
an Islamic state.
Analyst Ely Karmon wrote in a paper for the
Terrorism Research Initiative that Boko Haram

is “an immediate and infectious regional threat.”

_AP.
Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten
contributed to this report from Paris. Faul
reported from Cambridge, England.

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