The Nigerian Islamist rebel group known as Boko Haram has been linked to Al-qaeda as a member of the group admits he was trained to make bombs in Afghanistan. The member of the Islamic sect admitted that he was paid $500 to be trained and promised another $35,000 if he returned for more training.
“I spent three months in Afghanistan. I was trained as a bomb specialist,” 23-year-old Abdulrasheed Abubakar, was quoted as saying after he was paraded before journalists in Nigeria. Abubakar’s confession confirmed the link between Islamists in the oil-rich African country and Afghanistan.
The Nigerian police also confiscated a large arsenal of weapons and bomb-making equipment recovered from suspected Boko Haram members recently arrested in the northern cities of Yola and Maiduguri.
Experts have always nursed fears that an al-Qaeda sleeper cell might launch attacks on oil infrastructure in Nigeria, which is an increasingly large supplier to the US.
Mr Abubakar said he was supposed to train five people on his return, but when he did not receive his money he escaped.
Boko Haram claimed it was fighting against Western education and believed Nigeria’s government was being corrupted by Western ideas. It wanted to see Islamic law imposed across the country.
After the sects uprising in northern Nigeria, many beheaded bodies were found in the sect’s headquarters, including at least three Christian preachers and the second in command of the military operation. Hundreds of sect members were also killed as the security forces retaliated and controversy surrounds the death of the alleged leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who was shot after his arrest.
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Nigeria, with its large number of impoverished, disenfranchised and devoutly Muslim young men, easy access to weapons and endemic corruption may seem to be the ideal breeding ground for anti-western radicals.
With this revelation, the presence of an al-Qaeda branch operating across the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, Morocco, Mali and Niger and Nigeria’s porous borders has renewed fears.
However, some Nigerian analysts say that although some Islamic sects in Nigeria, such as Mr Yusuf’s Boko Haram, are 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.