Nigeria Boko Haram's main target?

Sept. 8, 2011 at 1:19 PM

BRUSSELS, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Despite apparent connections between Nigerian militant group Boko Haram and al-Qaida, the main threat is to the Nigerian state, an expert said.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for an attack that left dozens of people dead and many more injured at the U.N. offices in Abuja in August.

U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham, the top U.S. military authority working in Africa, told the BBC in August there were growing ties between Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African branch of al-Qaida.

Comfort Ero, Africa program director at the International Crisis Group, said the August attack and alleged ties to al-Qaida suggests Boko Haram is trying to portray itself as a powerful terrorist entity in the region.

He notes, however, that the Nigerian group may be focusing more on internal events. Boko Haram, he said, exploited political differences in the country during violence that left 1,000 people dead after the April vote.

Riots broke out in the predominantly Muslim north after news that Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, defeated challenger Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim.

Ero notes there aren't many formal links between Boko Haram and northern political parties but the Islamic group may be getting key support from elites in the Muslim north.

He suggests that Boko Haram's ultimate goal is to destabilize a secular Nigeria. "In this, the violent campaign of Boko Haram threatens the stability of the Nigerian state," he writes.

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