The terrorist attacks in Paris, which at the last count left hundreds of people dead and dealt a blow on France national security, should prompt a more aggressive approach towards ending Boko Haram terror by the Nigerian government. The Islamic State has since claimed responsibility for the attacks. Though ISIS struck at the epicentre of Europe’s most diverse city, the consequences will be felt in Maiduguri and other Nigeria’s northeastern towns and villages where Boko Haram has also been unleashing terror on residents.
The Islamic State may have its root in Syria and Iraq, where it has carried out some of the worst terror acts in recent history, Boko Haram, its Nigerian affiliate, idolises the group and seeks to surpass its barbarity in its quest to establish a caliphate in the North-East. Paris is not so far away and ISIS and our home-grown Boko Haram have since become allies. The Islamic State has also extended its reach. When ISIS broke onto the scene in Syria and Iraq, it seemed just focused on seizing territory in its own neighbourhood. But in the last two weeks, the so-called soldiers of the caliphate appear to have demonstrated a chilling reach, with terrorist attacks against Russia, in Lebanon and now in France.
The seemingly synchronised assaults that turned Paris into a war zone on Friday came just days after a bombing targeted a Shiite district of Beirut controlled by Iran’s ally, Hezbollah, and a Russian passenger jet was downed over Egypt. The rapid succession of strikes, all claimed by the Islamic State, suggested that the regional war has turned into a global one. For President Muhammadu Buhari and his African allies, the attacks must force a reassessment of the Boko Haram threat given the established relationship between the two groups. If anything, the Paris attacks should prompt an urgency to achieve the December deadline or a more realistic and aggressive strategy against the insurgency.
Barely a week after Boko Haram pledged its allegiance, the Islamic State accepted the offer. In a video posted online by the group, a man who describes himself as IS spokesman, Mohammed al-Adnanisaid, says, “We announce to you to the good news of the expansion of the caliphate to West Africa because the caliph… has accepted the allegiance of our brothers of the Sunni group for preaching and the jihad.”
Analysts believe that after the offer of allegiance was accepted by the ISIS, a relationship that was poised to change the terror campaign of Boko Haram in scope and barbarity had just been established. Many in intelligence circles had also expressed concern that by pledging allegiance to the ISIS, Boko Haram would become deadlier and receive support in funding and other logistics from the terror group. And it did not take long for Boko Haram to replicate terror along the lines of ISIS especially in adopting ISIS execution style.
In its first beheading video posted online in July 2015, the 10-minute-long propaganda video begins with what appears to be an intense firefight against Nigerian soldiers. Boko Haram fighters exchange machine gun fire with the troops and launch heavy mortar grenades on their locations. It shows them standing proudly next to the corpses of scorched Nigerian troops – and showing off their security badges to the camera. The video ends with the senseless murder of a captured African Union soldier. With a look of true horror on his face, the man kneels in front of three masked Boko Haram fanatics – two of whom point AK47s at his head.The video then cuts to reveal his decapitated body lying motionless on the floor.
In its second video released in October 2015, the group had re-christened its name, the Islamic State West African Province. This was a reflection of its earlier pledge of allegiance to the ISIS. The new video purportedly released by the Islamic State affiliated Boko Haram shows a Nigerian soldier beheaded in what is now known as Islamic State’s West Africa province. The video, released on October 10, is titled, “Repelling an Attack of the Apostate Nigerian Army Upon the Area of Borno.” The continued collaboration between the two groups is the reason why Boko Haram must be defeated before it could carry out further attacks.
Already the ISIS has Nigeria on the list of terror plans. An ISIS linked blog mentioned Nigeria after the Paris theatre attacks. TRACterrorism, a terrorist monitoring organisation, stated on its Twitter page, that a post on the blog of the ISIS, mentioned Nigeria in relation to the attacks. In the statement purportedly signed by a Daulah Islamiyah, Nigeria was mentioned in this context: “Dream to reclaim the wilderness in the interior of Nigeria.”
In a study also conducted on the rise of ISIS and its growing influence globally, a chart compiled by Statista for The UK Independent newspaper shows the countries most worried about the rise of the terror group which included the UK, Spain and Nigeria. While 85 per cent of those polled in Nigeria said they were very concerned about ISIS, only a quarter said they felt the same in Indonesia. The fear of te ISIS infiltrating Nigeria to carry out attacks more deadly than Paris is real. Already, Boko Haram has shown it can carry out a big hit when in 2011, a car bomb struck the United Nations building in Abuja.
At the time of the attack, Boko Haram was thought to have ties with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, which operates in North Africa, as well as the al-Shabab movement in Somalia. In March 2015, after Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to ISIS, it became apparent that the group was thinking big. For one, the sect has idealised for long about a creating a caliphate in Northern Nigeria based on its extremist interpretation of Sharia law. The ISIS on the other hand also aims for the establishment of a single, global state under its interpretation of Islamic rule. Both groups have emerged as serious security threats and Boko Haram pledge of allegiance to the IS should prompt an urgency to defeat the group before it mutates to carry attacks more heinous than it has previously done.The Nigerian government must see the Paris attacks as a wakeup call to renew its efforts at destroying Boko Haram. Just as we have seen in Paris with ISIS, Boko Haram will not relent until it carries out more attacks that will shock the world.