As if the threat from Boko Haram, the Islamist group that has been killing Christians in Nigeria, wasn’t enough, there’s a new, more radical, threat from a splinter group, analysts are reporting.
The new group is called Ansaru, the Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan, which means Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa.
Heritage Foundation Africa analyst Morgan Roach confirms the threat is major.
“Ansaru released a video last spring announcing its creation and is listed on the U.K. Terror List,” Roach said. “One of Ansaru’s suspected leaders is Khalid al-Barnawy. He is a designated terrorist in the US.”
World Threats founder and terrorism analyst Ryan Mauro says both groups are trouble.
“The two Nigerian jihadist groups are vicious. They aren’t the Muslim Brotherhood-type Islamists that put a ton of effort into showing they are friendly towards Christians,” Mauro said.
To see what Christians in northern Nigeria are facing with two major jihadist groups, Mauro says look at other jihadist regimes.
“If you want to predict how Boko Haram and Ansaru will treat Christians, look at how al-Qaida treats them in Iraq and Egypt,” Mauro said.
Roach said that the new group’s operational status definitely means danger for Christians and others.
“While this offshoot has been around less than a year, it’s fair to say that they pose a threat to not only the Christian community but to northern Nigeria as a whole. While Ansaru has attempted to differentiate itself from Boko Haram by denouncing the killing of non-Muslims, evidence suggests otherwise,” Roach said.
“Furthermore, Ansaru maintains that it will attack any group that attacks Islam or Muslims. This includes the Nigerian government and its security forces and [it] has already backed this up with action,” Roach said.
Analysts suggest Ansaru’s only interest is in attacking foreigners and “non-Muslim Nigerians.” However, Strategy World military think tank, publishers of Strategy Page, warns Ansaru may be picking targets outside Nigeria, too.
“Ansaru appears to be … more interested (than Boko Haram) in working closely with Islamic terror groups operating in the new terrorist sanctuary of northern Mali,” the Strategy Page report said.
Boko Haram, meanwhile, seems to have its focus on Nigeria.
The group’s aim, Roach said, is to turn Nigeria into a Muslim nation.
Boko Haram, she said, wants to overthrow the Christian state and replace it with an Islamic government that rules by Shariah law.”
“Attacks against Christians undermine the authority of President Goodluck Jonathan (a Christian) and exploit the government’s lack of will or ability to protect Nigerian citizens,” Roach said.
But Boko Haram’s reach has been described as “limited,” and other groups, such as Ansaru, are stepping in.
In November, Ansaru killed a British hostage and an Italian hostage. In December, the group kidnapped a French engineer.
Military and terrorism analyst Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal , a project of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies , says Boko Haram could use Ansaru’s active operations to its strategic advantage.
“Ansaru says Boko Haram is too moderate, but Boko Haram can actually use Ansaru as a cover,” Roggio said. “Any operation carried out by Ansaru gives Boko Haram cover, and it deflects attention away from Boko Haram.”
Roggio says even though there are philosophical differences, the two groups will likely work together and be able to avoid outside attention at the same time.
“They’ll cooperate in attacks, but even if they do, most Western intelligence agencies won’t notice. To them, Ansaru will just be another group,” Roggio said.
Roggio’s assessment of cooperation is verified by Strategy Page, which says the two groups are jointly fighting Nigerian security
“The battle against Islamic terrorists grinds on, with the Boko Haram and Ansaru terrorists attacking troops and police even while they are being sought and attacked,” the Strategy Page report says.