Thursday 28 March 2013

Nigeria and Ansaru Terror Group

The Islamist extremist group known as Ansaru, which Monday claimed the kidnapping of seven foreigners in northern Nigeria, has emerged as a new threat in the restive region, particularly concerning abductions.

FULL NAME: In emailed statements purportedly from the group, it has identified itself as Jamaatu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladissudan, which is Arabic for the Vanguard for the Aid of Muslims in Black Africa.

ORIGIN: It is believed to be a splinter faction of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has carried out a violent insurgency in northern and central Nigeria for several years.

MEMBERSHIP: Little is known about its members. Some experts say its leader may be Khalid al-Barnawi, one of three Nigerian extremists labelled a "global terrorist" by the United States last year.

AIMS: When claiming attacks and kidnappings, it has mentioned France's intervention in Mali and European nations' "atrocities done to the religion of Allah." However, experts do not take such claims at face value and see the group more as a criminal gang with an Islamist strain.

FOREIGN LINKS: The group is believed to have links of some kind with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al-Qaeda's north African wing. The US State Department described Barnawi as tied to Boko Haram and with "close links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb." Its kidnappings would seem to mimic those claimed by AQIM in other countries.

ABDUCTIONS: While what is believed to be Boko Haram's main branch has not claimed kidnappings, Ansaru has been mentioned in connection with at least three instances:

- The May 12, 2011 abductions of a Briton and an Italian working for a construction firm in Kebbi state, near the border with Niger. The victims were killed on March 8, 2012 in neighbouring Sokoto state during a botched rescue operation.

- The December 19, 2012 kidnapping of a French engineer in Katsina state, bordering Niger. Ansaru claimed the kidnapping, and the victim's whereabouts remain unknown.

- The February 16, 2013 kidnapping of seven foreigners from a construction site in Bauchi state. Nigerian police said four Lebanese, one Briton, a Greek citizen and an Italian were among those taken. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

OTHER ATTACKS: It claimed responsibility for a January 19 attack in central Nigeria that killed two soldiers due to be deployed to Mali.



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