Friday, March 9, 2012

Round up on the botched rescue of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara

The Guardian say that the information of the hostages' location came after the arrest of a top Boko Haram man in Kaduna:

Nigerian security agents have been receiving intelligence training from western nations with years of experience in handling terrorism, including the United States and the UK.

Military sources say the training would normally start to show results within 18 to 24 months, about the time since foreign countries began technical assistance to tackle Boko Haram.

A group known as "al Qaeda" in the land beyond the Sahel" claimed in December that it had captured McManus.

The paper's correspondent in Lagos says it shows a disturbing shift in tactics:
Officials say factions within each of the groups have been in contact with each other. According to Nigerian intelligence officials, members of the more radical Boko Haram factions have received training from Aqim in Algeria and possibly Afghanistan. Aqim is thought to have given Boko Haram advice on urban terrorist tactics and suicide bombings.

Aqim has perfected what analysts call a "kidnap economy", thriving off the abduction and ransom of westerners and Africans. It often snatches hostages in one country and moves them across one or more borders, ending up in Aqim bases in Mali. Reports suggest Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara were moved around but remained within Nigerian borders, which makes it unlikely that Aqim was behind the atrocity.
From last nights' The World Today, Haruna Tangaza in Sokoto tells them the battle raged for hours and they used a tank to get in:
Haruna Shehu Tangaza reporting on the Sokoto kidnapping (mp3)

I don't know what this means for the line on the BBC story that "British forces were first in the door".

The FT say that the fact that Boko Haram didn't claim the operation may have some significance.

All in all its still a muddy picture. I think this underlines the fractured nature of the new militancy in northern Nigeria.

As an observer thousands of miles away, I have some questions:

If this was a splinter group, how did they maintain themselves with funding and supplies?

What level now do we put British involvement in this issue?

If it is Boko Haram, will they now retaliate?

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