African-Based Terror Group a Threat to the U.S. Homeland?

by JIM KOURI, CPP December 4, 2011
 
Boko Haram is a controversial Islamist group that seeks the imposition of Shariah law in the northern states of Nigeria. The group's official name is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad."
 
Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, released a bipartisan report entitled "Boko Haram - Emerging Threat to the U.S. Homeland," (pdf) detailing the rapid evolution of the Nigerian-based terrorist organization Boko Haram.
 
In August 2011, Boko Haram attacked the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria with a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED), killing 23 people and wounding more than 80 others.  
 
In a video recorded before the attack, the suicide bomber described the U.N. as a forum for “all global evil” and stated that the attack was designed to “send a message to the U.S. President and ‘other infidels.’”
 
It is critical that the U.S. Intelligence Community thoroughly and carefully examine the extent of the threat from Boko Haram to the U.S. Homeland.  Our report found that the August attack on the U.N. represented a major escalation in the targeting and tactics of Boko Haram, an evolution that mirrors the rise of other al Qaeda affiliate groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)," said Rep. Meehan.  
 
"While some believe Boko Haram will focus only on targets within Nigeria and does not have the intent or capability to strike the U.S. Homeland, the same was assessed about AQAP and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), before their near fatal attacks over Detroit on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 and in Times Square in May 2010," Meehan stated.  
 
Boko Haram (translated: "Western or non-Islamic education is a sin") is a controversial Islamist group that seeks the imposition of Shariah law in the northern states of Nigeria. The group's official name is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad".
 
As reported by the Law Enforcement Examiner in July, Boko Haram was formed by Muslim cleric in 2002 in Nigeria. While claiming to be a peace loving religious group, in the Summer of 2009 the radical Islamist organization launched a rebellion hoping they would be able to establish Sharia law and an Islamic state in the northern part of Nigeria.
 
In the aftermath of Boko Haram's battle with the military in July 2009, over 800 were left dead, and hundreds more were wounded. After the battle, Boko Haram's founder and leader Mohammed Yusuf and several ranking members including Yusuf's father were killed while in police custody.
 
Since January 2010, surviving terrorist group members have bombed targets and conducted guerilla warfare -- or hit-and-run -- operations. In one attack a police stationhouse was bombed in June 2011. The group claimed responsibility for the bombing attack on the police force headquarters in Abuja that occurred the previous day. Officials believed that the attack was the first suicide bombing in Nigeria's history and that it specifically targeted Police Inspector-General Hafiz Ringim, according to the Law Enforcement Examiner source.
 
This latest congressional report is intended to raise awareness of the emerging threat posed by Boko Haram to the U.S. Homeland and to encourage the U.S. Intelligence Community to be especially vigilant to ensure Boko Haram does not reach U.S. shores, which has been accomplished by another African-based group, Somalia's terrorist group Al-Shabaab.
 
“We must constantly be vigilant to new threats, wherever they may arise. In attacking the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria with a sophisticated car bomb killing 23, Boko Haram graduated from a domestic Nigerian threat to a terrorist threat to the international community.  What we need now is information, intelligence and cooperation with our allies to understand and appropriately respond to this new threat. Hopefully this report and this hearing will help us do just that,”  said Rep. Speier.
 
The report was released in conjunction with a Subcommittee hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning  entitled “Boko Haram - Emerging Threat to the U.S. Homeland" and follows a September 13, 2011 letter from Chairman Meehan and Ranking Member Speier to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requesting the State Department initiate an investigation to determine whether Boko Haram warrants Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and is a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org).  In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News KGAB (www.kgab.com). Jim Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe actor Michael Moriarty.
 

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