John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Is AQIM’s Influence Growing in Nigeria’s Boko Haram?

by John Campbell
October 17, 2013

Ammunition and explosives seized from suspected members of Hezbollah are displayed after a raid of a building in Nigeria's northern city of Kano May 30, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


In a recent article in African Arguments, Jonathan Hill, a senior lecturer at King’s College London and author of Nigeria Since Independence: Forever Fragile?, provides a thoughtful, if grim, analysis of the latest round of Boko Haram killings in northern Nigeria. He makes the important point that the recent murder of students while they slept at the agricultural college in Yobe state was only one in a series of assaults. He cites the raids on the secondary school in Mamudo in July, Dumba village in August, and Benisheik in September. He notes that these attacks took place during the state of emergency with a greatly augmented security presence that failed to prevent them.

From these attacks, he concludes that “Boko Haram appears unbowed and its campaign undimmed.” He suggests this recent round of attacks may mark a new stage in Boko Haram’s evolution. Specifically, he suggests that the style, the victims, and the brutality of the attacks resemble al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operations in Algeria. These similarities, he suggests, may indicate growing AQIM influence over Boko Haram.

Hill characterizes this evolution as “devastating,” citing the degradation of education in the North, already the least literate part of the country, the likely spread of inter-communal tensions toward the south, and Southern impatience with the costs of the counter terrorism campaign.

Hill’s stark bottom line: “That Nigeria is now a failed state is beyond question. Whether it can avoid breaking apart remains to be seen.” That conclusion, alone, is food for thought.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Chike

    I don’t see how events like the murder of students in an agricultural college or Benisheik help the cause of Boko Haram in the long run.

    I just don’t.

    Nigeria also isn’t Algeria, the politics, culture & dynamics are a lot different. So even if AQIM sets up camp here, the impact won’t mirror Algeria.

    There’s a “growing impatience” with the mindless terrorism of Boko Haram – & it is not only limited to the South. Nobody has presented conclusive evidence that the ranks of Boko Haram are swelling as a result of its despicable brutality – it is all conjecture & imagination.

  • Posted by News247

    Nigeria is at the brink of becoming a failed state. Boko Haram has grown to become a serious treat to the unity of Nigeria. Some people suggest Nigeria might be heading towards civil war.

  • Posted by Uche

    The fact remains that l am yet to come to reality with exact demand of BH.
    Is it “WESTERN EDUCATION IS BAD?” If so why use western arms to kill innocent Nigerians? If it is to Islamise the North, then it means their religion “Convert Souls” by conscription. Pls let their sponsors be bold to tell Goodlick visa-vis this nation what their problem is and stop hiding under shadeless canopies

  • Posted by Nigel

    JAS activity does bear some resemblance to GIA activity at the height of the violence in Algeria. It is also reminiscent of more wanton violence from Iraq, or even the brief activity of Takfir wal Hijra in Egypt in 1970s.

    But I don’t think that is testament to growing AQ-IM influence- in fact the reverse might be the case.

    AQ-IM emerged from GSPC who had left the GIA because they objected to GIA violence of this kind. Plus we know that last year AQ-IM were urging patience upon their Malian allies when the latter were imposing Shari’a law, as they saw the importance of carrying the populations. So I really doubt that AQ-IM are behind, or even supportive of, the JAS violence.

    This does not mean, of course, that JAS are not inspired by the GIA activity of the 1990s but even that I doubt. I think that the drivers of the rise in appalling JAS violence are more likely to be linked to something else, like retaliation/revenge for the Emergency or internal divisions over strategy – or there might be a local ethnic or communal dimension that I might be missing.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required