Referring to a congressional testimony to the US House committee on Homeland Security dated November 30, 2011, a whole new light is shown on Boko Haram's (BH) international links and ties. Much like the UN designation reports, the testimony mentions BH's links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in which BH gained "valuable knowledge on the construction of improvised explosive devices"; not only that, but some fighters of BH “fought alongside Al-Qaida affiliated groups in Mali in 2012 and 2013 before returning to Nigeria with terrorist expertise”. The testimony goes further than the UN report, noting that “The use of a suicide VBIED on the Abuja police barracks in June 2011 marked the first time on record a suicide attack was carried out in Nigeria. The bomb used was large enough to destroy 40 other vehicles in the parking lot”. The tactical use of VBIEDs is eerily similar to AQIM’s tactics in Mali and Algeria--not to mention AQIM is also notorious for kidnapping. Perhaps BH picked that up tactic from AQIM, as well?
Even more worrying, BH has established ties to al-Shabaab in Somalia. This should not come as a surprise as al-Qaeda affiliates often times share resources, fighters, and knowledge with each other (look at Ansar al-Sharia (Libya), AQIM, Muhammad Jamal Network and AQAP doing the same in Libya). The testimony reports that BH issued a statement reading, “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”. So it seems BH has ties to both AQIM and al-Shabaab. But are there others?
According to the Combatting Terrorism Center (CTC), a Nigerian named Khalid al-Barnawi, an influential leader in Ansaru (a breakaway faction of BH) and BH, is a former kidnapping accomplice of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian al-Qaeda leader. Another leader within the BH/Ansaru network, Mamman Nur, not only has ties to AQIM and Shabaab, but also AQAP, al-Qaeda Central Command and even the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. If the reports are true in the CTC’s report, we are dealing with a well-connected group within the al-Qaeda network; not just some local group with al-Qaeda inspirations.
Going back to the UN designation, they note that the leader of BH, Abubakr Shekau, has “expressed Boko Haram’s solidarity with Al-Qaida affiliates in Afghanistan, Iraq, North Africa, Somalia and Yemen. He also encouraged fighters across Africa and other areas to continue engaging in terrorist attacks." These statements were then subsequently disseminated to popular jihadist forums.
If all these reports are true—and I have no reason to doubt the validity of them—Boko Haram most definitely deserves to be on the UNSC’s al-Qaeda Sanctions list. Sadly, the designation, alone, will not be enough to stop the violence being propagated by these well-connected jihadists.