What had been widely suspected, but without much evidence, was confirmed at the weekend, as a captured Boko Haram insurgent revealed that extremists from three neighbouring countries were fighting in the ongoing terrorist attacks in the northeastern part of the country on the side of the sect.
He also said there were doctors, professionals and artisans within the Boko Haram sect.
The account of the sect member reinforces fears that the Islamic militant sect, Boko Haram, is getting closer to al-Qaida affiliates and that radical movements are spilling across national boundaries.
The Nigerian Army had on Thursday launched a massive air and ground onslaught against Boko Haram in Borno State, killing 74 insurgents and destroying the sect’s camp in Galangi and Kawanti villages.
But in neighbouring Yobe State, members of the sect had launched surprise attacks on Damaturu, the state capital, and engaged the military in gun duels for several hours, forcing the imposition of a 24-hour curfew on the state by the army.
“We do have members from Chad, Niger and Cameroon who actively participate in most of our attacks,” the insurgent said.
The insurgent was presented to journalists on Friday night by the military as a captured fighter of the Boko Haram terrorist sect.
The claim about foreign fighters indicates the gr-owing influence of Boko Haram, which started out as a machete-wielding gang and that now wages war with armoured cars, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices in its mission to force Nigeria to become an Islamic state.
The 22-year-old refused to give his name, for fear that his family would be targeted.
The alleged fighter walks on crutches because of a bullet wound suffered when he was captured in a recent attack.
“We have qualified doctors who are active members . they were not forced to be in the group, they are more elderly than us,” he said.
“We have mechanics, we have welders, we have carpenters, we have professional drivers, we have butchers, security experts, gun instructors and so on,” he said, displaying his lack of education by his poor use of Hausa, the local language most common in Maiduguri, where he used to live with his parents.
The captured extremist member said religion did not figure in his life as an Islamic warrior, insisting his leaders “had never once preached Islam to us.”
He said the name of Allah was invoked only when “we are running out of food supply in the bush. Our leaders will assemble us and declare that we would be embarking on a mission for God and Islam.”
He added: “I did not see any act of religion in there. We are just killing people, stealing and suffering in the bush.”
The prisoner, who wore military fatigue pants exactly like those of his captors, said foreigners fight in his group of 150 but did not say how many. “We have no members from Mali or Libya that I know of … But we do have members from Chad, Niger and Cameroon who actively participate in most of our attacks.”
He said he and many other fighters would like to surrender but are scared to do so.
“Each time they declare an attack, I feel sick and terrified, so were most of my younger colleagues, but we dare not resist our leaders: They are deadly, our punishment for betrayal is slaughtering of our necks.”
According to him, Boko Haram had moved on from targeting security forces and politicians to attacks on soft targets such as school students, villagers and travelers because of the formation of vigilante groups “who now reveal our identities and even arrest us.”
Recently Boko Haram has carried out brutal attacks on mainly Muslim civilians.
The new assaults “offer vital and disturbing insights” that “not only confirm many of the group’s earlier developments but also al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb’s, or AQIM’s, growing influence over it,” Jonathan Hill, Senior Lecturer at the Defence Studies Department of King’s College, London, wrote in an analysis published online this month at africanarguments.org.
A harsh military crackdown in three northeastern states covering one-sixth of the country since mid-May has forced Boko Haram out of major cities and towns, but the security forces appear unable to prevent regular extremist attacks on soft targets like school pupils in which hundreds have been killed in recent months.
“These atrocities bear many striking similarities to those carried out by AQIM and its various forbears in Algeria,” wrote Hill, who is the author of “Nigeria Since Independence: Forever Fragile?”
He noted, “despite the extraordinary efforts of the security forces, Boko Haram appears unbowed and its campaign undimmed.”
Earlier this week, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation Mohammed Adoke charged that Boko Haram was being influenced from abroad.
“Nigeria is experiencing the impact of externally-induced internal security challenges, manifesting in the activities of militant insurgents,” he said while defending the country’s record at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Adoke did not give any details of the alleged external influences.
Boko Haram fighters, including current leader Abubakar Shekau, were reported fighting alongside al-Qaida affiliated groups that seized Northern Mali last year.
The movement has also boasted that it has fighters trained in Somalia by al-Shabab — the group that claimed responsibility for the most spectacular terrorist attack in Africa in recent years that killed at least 67 at Kenya’s upscale Westgate Mall last month.
Boko Haram has long been known to be receiving funding from abroad.
Founding father Mohammed Yusuf was receiving funds from Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia back in the 1990s, according to Hill.
Saudi Arabia, despite its status as a Western ally, for decades has been exporting to West and East Africa its Wahabi brand of purist Islam that, beyond the Middle Eastern kingdom’s borders, has been taken to extremes.
Niger and Chad both have said they fear infiltration by Boko Haram.
Boko Haram members from Nigeria and neighbouring Niger were arrested in December in Cameroon, according to a report from Jacob Zenn, an analyst for The Jamestown Foundation and author of the report “Northern Nigeria’s Boko Haram: The Prize in al-Qaeda’s Africa Strategy.”
He quoted the imam of a grand mosque in southern Senegal as claiming that Boko Haram was recruiting local youths there in August 2012.
In a report written in January, before the military crackdown, Zenn said international collaboration between Boko Haram and militants in northern Mali, the Sahel, Somalia and other countries in the Muslim world have allowed Boko Haram to grow into an organization that “has now matched — and even exceeded — the capabilities of some al-Qaida affiliates.”
Posted by SirVic for wetopup(News Laboratry)