Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nigeria al-Qaeda suspect to be extradited to US

Nigeria al-Qaeda suspect to be extradited to US

A screen shot of a video posted on the Internet on October 6, 2010 shows militants from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is mainly based in Yemen and Saudi Arabia

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A court in Nigeria has ordered the extradition to the US of a man accused of having links with al-Qaeda and recruiting members to train in Yemen.

Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi, also known as Ayatollah Mustapha, will be extradited within 14 days to stand trial in the US, the court ruled.

Mr Babafemi denies being linked to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Nigeria has been hit by an Islamist insurgency since 2009.

The Boko Haram group has carried out a wave of bombings and assassinations in its campaign to create an Islamic state across Nigeria.

Nigerian and US officials have repeatedly accused it of receiving training from foreign groups.

However, there is no suggestion so far that Mr Babafemi was linked to the insurgency in Nigeria.
'Underwear bomber'
Mr Babafemi did not challenge his extradition when he appeared in the High Court in the capital, Abuja.

Court documents alleged that he is an AQAP member who had travelled to Yemen between January 2010 and August 2011 to receive training and to make contact with senior members Anwar al-Awlaqi and Samir Khan.

Al-Awlaqi, a Yemeni-born American cleric, and Khan were subsequently killed in a drone strike.

Mr Babafemi received about $8,600 (£5,500) to "return to Nigeria and recruit English-speaking individuals to work in AQAP's English-language media operation", the documents allege, AFP news agency reports.

He has been charged in the US with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation and unlawful use of firearms.

He had been in the custody of Nigeria's intelligence services for two years, his lawyer said.

Mr Babafemi is not the first Nigerian accused of links with AQAP.

Last year, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, dubbed the "underwear bomber", was sentenced to life in prison in the US over his failed attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.


Africa's Islamist militants 'co-ordinate efforts'

Ansar Dine militants pose in the northern Malian city of Gao on 18 June 2012 The Ansar Dine militant group, which has seized the northern half of Mali, is thought to have links with al-Qaeda

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Three of Africa's largest militant Islamist groups are trying to co-ordinate their efforts, the head of the US Africa Command has warned.

Gen Carter Ham said in particular North African al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was probably sharing explosives and funds with Nigeria's Boko Haram.

Speaking in Washington, he said the separatist movement in northern Mali had provided AQIM with a "safe haven".

Somalia's al-Shabab was the other "most dangerous" group, he said.

“Start Quote

Linkages between AQIM and Boko Haram are probably the most worrisome ”
End Quote Gen Carter Ham Commander, US Africa Command

Gen Ham is commander of the US Africa Command (Africom) which, from its headquarters in Germany, co-ordinates US military activity across the continent.

This includes direct action, varying from the use of drones against al-Shabab Islamists in Somalia to the training of African armies in various countries.

The 100-strong US special forces contingent assisting in the hunt for the Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony also comes under Gen Ham's command.

Speaking in Washington, Gen Ham highlighted what he called three of the "most dangerous" groups - AQIM, Boko Haram and al-Shabab.

He said these groups were not monolithic, and that not all followed an international jihadist agenda.
'Safe haven'
But he said what was most worrying was that the most radical elements among them were co-ordinating and synchronising their efforts.

"Most notably I would say that the linkages between AQIM and Boko Haram are probably the most worrisome in terms of the indications we have that they are likely sharing funds, training and explosive materials that can be quite dangerous," he said.

Main Islamist armed groups active in Africa:
  • Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Primarily active in Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger
  • Boko Haram: Primarily active in northern Nigeria
  • Al-Shabab: Primarily active in Somalia, has carried out attacks in Kenya

Gen Ham said AQIM was "an organisation of growing concern", particularly in relation to the situation in Mali.

Earlier this year, there was a military coup in Mali followed by separatist ethnic Tuaregs and Islamist groups seizing control of the north.

The Africom commander said AQIM now had "a safe haven in a large portion of Mali and is operating essentially unconstrained".

Some of the connections between al-Qaeda and African-based jihadist groups have been known before. But there has been a question mark over whether there is a direct, operational link, as Gen Ham says.

In the case of Boko Haram, the group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, has declared the link and the Nigerian government also asserts it.

The problem lies in the fact that it may be in the political interests of Abuja to exaggerate such a link to get US and western support.

In a similar way, it may also be in the interests of Boko Haram to play up its affinity with al-Qaeda because it hopes that will lead to the kind of support it wishes to gather.

The reality, however, may be that the real driving forces behind Boko Haram are inequality and poverty in northern Nigeria; a historic grudge between the Nigerian north and south; and an underequipped and corrupt police force.

These issues may be just as important as any links between African jihadists and al-Qaeda.


'Boko Haram fighters' kill vigilantes in Borno, Nigeria

Vigilantes from the "Civilian Joint Task Force" group man a checkpoint in Maiduguri, Nigeria armed with with cutlasses and clubs on 7 August 2013 (file image) Vigilante groups - here manning a checkpoint in Maiduguri - have formed to fight Boko Haram

Suspected Boko Haram fighters have killed at least 20 members of vigilante groups trying to fight back against the group in north-east Borno state.

The deaths occurred in two separate attacks on Sunday and Monday, said residents and a military official.

Boko Haram has waged a deadly insurgency in Nigeria since 2009.

In May, President Goodluck Jonathan declared an emergency in three north-eastern states, saying the group threatened Nigeria's existence.

An offensive was launched against the group - which says it is fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria - and the military encouraged the formation of vigilante groups to help.


But now it appears Boko Haram is taking revenge against such groups, say observers - adding weight to fears that the vigilante groups may trigger an escalation of the violence.

On Sunday, men disguised in military uniforms stormed a meeting of one vigilante group in Bama, opening fire and killing 14, residents said.

An official at a local hospital told AFP news agency another four people died on Monday from the attack.

The second attack took place on Monday night in the Borno village of Damasak, some 200km (125 miles) away.

Attackers crept up on sleeping members of a group, which calls itself the Civilian Joint Task Force, as they slept in a guesthouse and shot them dead, said a relative and a military official speaking anonymously.

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