*Warns that ISWAP, Al-Qaida plan to overrun West Africa
*Says extremist groups strategising to re-establish themselves in the region
*That some aggrieved local terrorist groups were being galvanised
*As Boko Haram reveals its presence in Niger State via video
As Nigeria continues to battle rising cases of violent crimes ranging from insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery among others nationwide, the US Africa Command yesterday raised alarm that the Islamic State, IS and Al-Qaida terrorist groups plan to take over West African region.
Commander of the US Special Operations Command, Africa, Maj. Gen. Davin Anderson, stated that the extremist groups having been displaced in Syria and Iraq, have begun deploying strategies to re-establish themselves in the West African region and expand further in the continent without drawing attention.
Anderson, who spoke during a virtual media briefing with journalists, disclosed that Al-Qaida has expanded in Mali and had moved into northern Burkina Faso where they attacked infrastructure, took out local governance and security forces and are now controlling the economy and exerting control over the population.
“We are seeing them continue to move further south in Burkina Faso towards those littoral nations in the Gulf of Guinea, and also further west towards Senegal and West Africa. So that’s a concern to us as we watch them continue to move throughout the region,” the Commander said.
He observed that some aggrieved local terrorist groups were being galvanised into a larger ideology and movement, stressing that al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaida, was already instigating instability in Somalia in order to destabilise the Horn of Africa.
Anderson further stated that the extremist group is exploiting the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel to gain deeper roots in the region and in West Africa with Islamic State, West Africa, and Grand Sahara.
The groups, according to him, have established affiliates or leverage local grievances and consolidate this into a larger movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, Mozambique, as well as in Somalia.
“They are looking to Africa to try to find a means to re-establish themselves. And we can’t forget that al-Qaida has African roots and has a lot of African connection as well.
“That’s very concerning to us because it’s a deliberate strategy, and part of that strategy is to be quiet about how they act, how they expand. They’re not looking to advertise a lot of what they’re doing,” he noted.
The commander therefore warned that Africa needs to be conscious of their plot and understand how to counter it.
In a related development, some men suspected to be members of the Abubakar Shekau-led faction of Boko Haram have released video of members observing Eid-el-Kabir prayer in Niger State.
The footage shows about 100 persons observing Eid Al-Adha prayer in an undisclosed bushy area. Even though the date of the video is unknown, Eid Al-Adha was celebrated by Muslim faithful worldwide on July 31.
After the prayers, three of the supposed insurgents sent Eid greetings in Hausa, English and Fulfulde through one of the men dressed in Nigerian Police uniform saying, “It is we the Jamahatu Ali Sunna li Dawatul Jihad in the location of Niger State. We want to send our Sallah salutation, first of all to our imam, Abu Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Abubakar Shekau.”
It will be recalled that the insurgent group has held sway in the north-east for over a decade. The claim of its presence in Niger, a north-central state, is a new development and indication that it may be spreading to the region.
“The dense forest there is a perfect haven for terrorists and if the group is able to consolidate its presence in Niger state, it can easily target Abuja as well as to other states like Kwara and Kogi,” an analyst observed.
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