More evidence piles up that Boko Haram has been communicating with al Qaeda, particularly the branch in Mali. There were apparently Boko Haram members in Mali before French troops began clearing the Islamic terrorists out of northern Mali five weeks ago. The sources for this (captured documents and interrogations) also revealed a rift within Boko Haram. Many members are angry that the terror tactics have not produced much beyond a lot of mayhem and more Nigerians, particularly Moslems, who hate Boko Haram. That is why calls for peace talks since last November have created public disputes between Boko Haram leaders and factions. While Boko Haram has been able to carry out hundreds of attacks in the last few years, some of them quite spectacular bombings or gun battles, the group is no closer to its goal of ruling the north, much less all of Nigeria. While quite violent and militant, Boko Haram is still a small group, with a few thousand members (of varying skill and dedication) and a few hundred thousand northerners who offer support. Judging from the number of tips the police get and the subsequent raids on Boko Haram hideouts, many northerners are not fans of the ultra violence.
February 23, 2013: In central Nigeria (Taraba State) a football (soccer) game between a Moslem and a Christian team resulted in a riot that killed at least one person and left several buildings (including a church and a mosque) burned down.
The government shut down a northern radio station that had broadcast conspiracy theories about polio vaccination being a plot by Christians to poison Moslems.
In northern Gombe State gunmen on motorcycles fired on a group of men playing cards and killed five of them. Boko Haram is violently opposed to playing cards, listening to music, dancing, and many other forms of entertainment.
February 22, 2013: Iran denied that it had trained a Nigerian Shia cleric in espionage techniques and asked the man to recruit locals and gather information on the activities of Israelis and Americans in southwestern Nigeria (where the cleric, and many Shia, live). Nigerian police had revealed, two days earlier, the arrest and interrogation of the three Shia Nigerian Moslems. The three had admitted spying for Iran and provided many details.
February 21, 2013: The government ordered a search in the north, along the Cameroon border, for seven French citizens kidnapped two days ago in Cameroon.
February 20, 2013: In the northern city of Maiduguri, people woke to find posters in several neighborhoods proclaiming that Boko Haram had not agreed to a ceasefire. Maiduguri is in Borno State and the state government had been reporting negotiations with Boko Haram for a ceasefire. Elsewhere in Maiduguri a suicide bomber attempted to attack some soldiers but only managed to kill himself and two civilians.
February 19, 2013: A French family (parents, an uncle, and four children aged 5-12) were kidnapped in the north of Nigeria’s southern neighbor Cameroon. The hostages were apparently taken across the border to Nigeria. There are about 6,000 French citizens in Cameroon, and all were subsequently warned to stay away from the Nigerian border. Boko Haram later denied they were responsible, and no one has yet demanded any ransom or admitted they have the seven.
February 18, 2013: Ansaru (for Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan or "Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa") claimed responsibility for the recent kidnapping of seven foreign workers in northern Bauchi State. Ansaru is a Boko Haram splinter group that has become more active recently, after first declaring its existence a year ago (and then largely disappearing from view). Ansaru objects to the many Moslems who are being killed by Boko Haram attacks and wants to concentrate on attacks that only kill foreigners or non-Moslem Nigerians. It is unclear how large Ansaru is and how much violence within Boko Haram, if any, will result from the split. It is believed that there is considerable strife between Boko Haram leaders, with many strong-willed men, each with an armed following, trying to control the entire movement. At the moment most of these disagreements are put aside. Ansaru appears to be very small, perhaps only a hundred or so members, and more interested (than Boko Haram) in working closely with Islamic terror groups operating in the new terrorist sanctuary of northern Mali. This may encourage other extremist factions in Boko Haram to split off and create even more radical and violent groups like Ansaru.
February 17, 2013: Pirates kidnapped six crewmen from a commercial ship off the coast and later demanded a ransom of $1.27 million. This is the fifth such incident this month.
February 16, 2013: In northern Bauchi State armed men raided a construction site and kidnapped seven foreign workers (a Briton, an Italian, a Greek, and four Lebanese).
February 15, 2013: In the northern city of Maiduguri, two suicide bombers attempted to attack some soldiers but only managed to kill themselves and wound a civilian.
Reports from Mail indicate that the first 162 Nigerian troops sent there are not being adequately supplied and have had to ask for food from local leaders. Eventually 1,200 Nigerian troops will be in Mali to help with the peacekeeping.