Boko Haram is flush with cash and
weapons after a string of battlefield
advances, but the fighting group
could face a tougher fight with
Nigeria’s neighbours, US
intelligence officials have said.
In an assessment of the group,
whose five-year uprising has
included massacres and
kidnappings and spread from
Nigeria into neighboring states, the
officials said they did not believe it
posed a major threat to Nigeria’s
oilfields in the south.
They said the group has about
4,000-6,000 “hardcore” fighters –
considerably less than some
estimates which have put the
group’s size at up to 10,000.
The group is “financially secure”
from bank robberies, kidnappings
and other sources, and is able to go
“toe-to-toe” with the Nigerian
military after capturing an arsenal
of arms, the intelligence officials
However, the group could soon face
an unprecedented test on the
battlefield against more capable
forces from Cameroon, Chad and
Niger, they added.
The military intervention of
neighbouring powers “potentially
can be a game changer in a positive
way,” one intelligence official said.
The officials, who spoke on
condition of anonymity, said Boko
Haram were believed to be still
holding about 300 schoolgirls they
kidnapped early last year and had
dispersed them to multiple
Around 10,000 people were killed in
Boko Haram attacks last year. The
Sunni Muslim group poses the
biggest security threat in Nigeria,
Africa’s top oil producer and
Concern over the insurgency
appears to be and one of the main
reasons for what appears to be a
surge in political support for
opposition leader Muhammadu
Buhari in a February 14 election.
Many Nigerians believe Buhari, as a
former military ruler, will be able to
bolster the army’s hapless efforts
to counter the insurgency, and that
as a Muslim he may even be able to
take some of the wind out of Boko
Haram’s ideological sails.
The officials said the group had
been engaging in both small-scale
and larger attacks in recent weeks
and they expected this mixed
pattern of operations to continue
during the election period.
The US officials’ comments came as
Boko Haram suffered heavy losses
after launching a major attack into
Niger on Friday for the first time.
The clashes involved troops from
Niger as well as Chad, which has
adopted a leading role in the fight
against the group.