Nigeria: ISIS, Al Qaeda Penetrating Northwest, Seek to Expand Into South, U.S. Warns Nigeria

Nigeria on map.
5 August 2020

United States has warned that ISIS and al-Qaida are penetrating Northwest and looking to expand further south into the littoral areas of Nigeria.

The Commander of US Special Operations Command Africa, Major General Davin Anderson, raised the alarm during a digital briefing on US efforts to combat terrorism in Africa during COVID.

In the transcript of the briefing released Wednesday, General Anderson, while responding to a question on US-Nigeria partnership in combating terrorism, said, "we have engaged with Nigeria and continue to engage with them in intel sharing and in understanding what these violent extremists are doing, and that has been absolutely critical to their engagements up in the Borno State and into an emerging area of northwest Nigeria that we're seeing al-Qaida starting to make some inroads in."

Noting that the intelligence sharing is absolutely vital, General Anderson said the US "fully engaged with the Government of Nigeria to provide them an understanding of what these terrorists are doing, what Boko Haram is doing, what ISIS-West Africa is doing, and how ISIS and al-Qaida are looking to expand further south into the littoral areas."

He said it was quite disturbing that despite all this assistance, the violent extremist organisationss (VEOs) were continuing to make progress and continuing to be a threat.

"I think there's two factors in that. One, it goes to that each government has to focus on this and provide that focus for international partners to engage with. The other partner - the other part of this is we can't underestimate the threat these violent extremist organizations pose.

"We, as a community of international nations, keep thinking we have defeated them or we have put them on their back foot and that they're just moments from disintegration. I think after 20 years we have seen they are very resilient organizations that, although small, they're able to leverage social media and other forms of media to have an outsized voice and that they continue to recruit and they continue to find opportunities," Anderson said.

He also noted that these VEOs had evolved from what they were in the '90s, adding that what "they preyed upon in the '90s is different than what we saw in the 2000s in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, and now as we see them come back into Africa and engage more in Africa, we see them exploit other grievances and other divides. So we see them being very resilient, creative, and flexible."

Calling on all US partners not to underestimate the threat or underestimate what these VEOs are capable of doing, Anderson said "they are very patient and that they are willing to look for opportunities as they emerge. So you can't just say 'we've defeated them,' you have to continue to address weaknesses and places where these terrorist groups can - that they can exploit."

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