Nigeria: Government clampdown on Islamist extremism continues

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The Nigerian government is taking no chance on budding Islamist extremism as the Nigerian police, on Saturday stormed and arrested over six-hundred people in Darul Islam, an isolated commuinty in the mid-western state of Niger, where a stricter form of the Sharia law is being practiced. After the recent killings involving Boko Haram in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, Darul Islam and other seemingly extreme sects have come under official scrutiny.

Over one-thousand Nigerian police and immigration officers, stormed the Islamist community on Saturday morning, to break-up any budding extremism, arrest possible culprits of rebellion, and establish the identity and nationality of the members of the Darul Islam community. Immigration officers were deployed to identify and repatriate both both Nigerian migrants from other states and foreigners in the suspected community. Although the group has not been found to be engaged in anything against the law, the authorities appear to be keen to take this opportunity to disperse the community, observers claim.

The Darul Islam settlement was founded in the early 1990s for Muslims who wanted to follow strict Islamic laws, and live away from what they see as western life-style and ideals. However, the Nigerian police did not find any weapons in the community.

Experts and observers have always feared that al-Qaeda could find a breeding ground amongst some Islamic communities in Nigeria. With its large number of impoverished, disenfranchised amidst endemic corruption, Nigeria’s devoutly Muslim youths who have easy access to weapons have been regarded as potential candidates for anti-western radicalism. The presence of an al-Qaeda branch operating across the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, Morocco, Mali and Niger and Nigeria’s porous borders have sharpened such fears.

Following the attacks by Boko Haram across northern Nigeria last month, which left seven-hundred people dead, observers believe that increasing anti-western sentiments amongst similar groups could lead to attacks on the country’s oil infrastructure, which is increasingly important to the west.

Despite these fears, there is no evidence linking Nigerian radical Muslims to the global jihadists, or Osama Bin Laden’s group, despite several arrests by the government and two warnings from the United States about potential attacks on its interests in the country.

Some revolutionary-minded Nigerian Muslims such as members of Boko Haram believe that Western education is a sin and the time is again right for the replacement of a corrupt government with one inspired by pure Islam. As reported by Andrew Walker of the BBC, Nigeria analysts say that although some Islamic sects in Nigeria, such as Boko Haram and now Darul Islam, may be prone to violence and have an anti-Western agenda, they have different goals to al-Qaeda, and are unlikely to turn into sleeper cells in the way western diplomats fear.

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