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A new intelligence report confirms that Ansaru, a spinoff of the violent Muslim group Boko Haram, is adding kidnapping to its list of terrorism strategies.
The report issued by anti-terrorism think-tank the Jamestown Foundation says that kidnappings in Nigeria used to be confined to the southern half of the country.
“Historically, kidnappings in Nigeria were common only in the Niger Delta where insurgents sought ransoms in order to compensate for what they considered was the government’s and oil companies’ wanton destruction of their lands for profit,” the report said.
The report credits terror group Boko Haram with introducing kidnapping to the country’s north.
“The tactic of kidnapping was introduced and facilitated by Boko Haram militants who have experience carrying out kidnappings and training with AQIM,” the report said.
The link in the process comes through Ansaru’s new leader, Khalid al-Barnawi, who trained with Boko Haram, the report said.
Center for Security Policy Senior Fellow Clare Lopez says money is Ansaru’s motive.
“Kidnapping is more a part of the fundraising campaign than it is a weapon in terrorism,” Lopez said. “Since the Nigerian groups are closely allied with al-Qaida, they are following al-Qaida’s example.
“As kidnapping has been a tactic for al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) for a long time, kidnapping not only sends a message to Western individuals, companies, and their home countries, but also raises large amounts of money these groups,” Lopez said.
“The dollar amounts can be in the millions annually for AQIM – and I think this is at least as important for them as any anti-Western message the tactic sends,” Lopez said.
Terrorism analyst and Long War Journal Editor Bill Roggio agrees.
“Ansaru is simply using a standard AQIM fundraising tactic,” Roggio said. “It has raised lots of money for AQIM.”
Reports of Ansaru branching out into kidnapping in northern Nigeria come at the same time Nigerian security forces are credited with killing 14 “insurgents” in the northern city of Kano.
The 14 dead were suspected members of Boko Haram.
An intelligence analysis says that al-Barnawi will be unaffected by the successful Nigerian government raid. The report says al-Barnawi has his eyes on a bigger prize.
“If al-Barnawi is like the AQIM militants with whom he trained in Algeria, he may be only marginally committed to Boko Haram’s goal for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria and revenge against the government for killing Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf in 2009,” the report said.
“Al-Barnawi…is committed to internationalist objectives. As evidenced by the kidnappings of foreigners in Kebbi and Katsina and Ansaru’s January 20 attack on a Nigerian military convoy headed for Mali, Ansaru appears to be carrying out AQIM’s mission in Nigeria,” the report also said.
WND reported in January that Ansaru split from Boko Haram over killing Muslims in northern Nigeria, but that its aims are ultimately outside Nigerian territory.
Analysts suggest Ansaru’s only interest is in attacking foreigners and “non-Muslim Nigerians.” However, the 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.
In November, Ansaru killed a British hostage and an Italian hostage. In December, the group kidnapped a French engineer.
Roggio 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.