As the Federal Government prepares to increase the number of troops being sent to war-torn Mali, to join forces with other foreign armies to flush out armed rebel groups in northern part of the troubled West African country, a Defence intelligence report has revealed that Nigeria’s violent group, Boko Haram, has been mobilising and sending fighters to support their comrades-in-arm at the Malian war front.
It was gathered that Boko Haram, whose operational bases and training ground have been traced to Mali, as Saturday Sun reported on October 27, 2012 and confirmed by President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, knowing that the routing of the Malian rebels in the northern part of the West African country would affect them have been mobilising fighters, who would be ferried out of Nigeria to Mali to join the rebels.
Sources revealed that it was in order to frustrate the Federal Government’s military expedition in the West African country that the group attacked Malian-bound soldiers in Kogi. In the attack, two soldiers, among those going to Mali, were killed. Also, the group is gathering its suicide bombers and other fighters in Nigeria, with a view to sending them to Mali to join the rebels.
A defence source told Saturday Sun: “Fresh intelligence shows that “Boko Haram has not only mobilised fighters to join their people in Mali but are still working hard to send more, which also explains why foreign and Malian troops have faced unexpected stiff resistance from the rebel fighters who appear more in number and well-equipped for the battle.”
The source added that as a result, all law enforcement agencies have been alerted to be “double vigilant at the borders, especially Nigeria’s borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon so as to check and prevent certain movements out of the country.”
This also tallies with the submission of United Nations Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who briefed the Security Council on Mali on Tuesday, when he said that, as of last Sunday, 855 troops had been deployed for the African force from Benin, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Niger.
“The capabilities of the armed groups occupying northern Mali have proved to be strong, as they are better equipped and trained than initially anticipated,” Feltman told the council, adding: “There is general agreement among key stakeholders in Bamako that the envisaged AFISMA strength of 3, 300 personnel needs to be increased in order for it to engage effectively in offensive operations and enhance force protection.”
Nigeria is sending 1, 200 out of the initial 3, 300-member African force, known as AFISMA, expected to route the Malian rebels from their stronghold in North of the West African country. There are, however, indications that Defence authorities will get President Goodluck Jonathan’s nod to increase the number of troops to double the figure in the days ahead because of Boko Haram’s mobilisation effort in support of the rebels.
It will be recalled that President Jonathan, on Tuesday, in an interview with Reuters in Geneva, had confirmed that Boko Haram was training its members in Mali, adding that the group was not only a threat to Nigeria but also Africa, as a continent. He said Nigeria was committing so much to intervene in Mali because of the links between the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram and al Qaeda’s North African wing in Mali.
“We believe that if we stabilise northern Mali, not just Nigeria but other countries that are facing threats will be stabilized,” Jonathan said, adding that Boko Haram members “have no boundaries. They don’t respect international boundaries. Today, they are in Mali and in Niger tomorrow, then Cameroon and Mali.”
While buttressing the level of resources Nigeria is committing to the Malian war, Jonathan said: “Nigeria controls 55 per cent of the economy of West Africa and Mali is a West African country, so we expect the Nigerian contribution to take that proportion. If we don’t show that leadership, other countries may not come up strong.
“We cannot pull out until we have solved the problem. I cannot tell you when we will solve the problem, but Nigeria is totally committed and we remain committed until the crisis is resolved.”
Jonathan’s revelation confirmed Saturday Sun exclusive report on October 27, 2012, which stated that a world super power nation had provided Nigeria with intelligence support, which reveals that Boko Haram leaders, including the most wanted Abubakar Shekau, were not only based in northern Mali, but also planned and launched its deadly operations from there.
Meanwhile, the cost of the military intervention in Mali is already causing disquiet within the top hierarchy of the Nigerian Defence. A three-star military office, who is a member of the nation’s Joint Intelligence Board (JIB) told Saturday Sun: “There are grumblings within the military over what the Malian intervention will be costing Nigeria, in view of the unequivocal commitment of Mr. President that Nigeria will be providing 55 per cent of the cost of the war and the position of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, warning the world body against providing any form of funding or logistical support to the African military intervention force in Mali.
“The fear is that the French troops will throw the bombs and pull out of the operation, hand over every other thing to Nigeria and where do we get the money to sustain thousands of troops there till full normalcy is restored? Besides, there is the fear that funds and attention needed by the various Joint Task Forces in the North and Niger Delta regions may be diverted for the Malian operations.”
The military source further attributed the complaints within the Security Council to the sudden decision to deploy troops to Mali, as against the initial position of providing logistical support to the Malian military authorities to engage the Toureg rebels.
“There are concerns that we will not only commit billions of scarce funds to the war but we may be losing troops more than envisaged because the initial agreement with the head of the Malian military, Capt Sanogo is to support them to enable them to fight their own war themselves. That has not been changed till the sudden deployment of troops.
“Besides, there is a complex mixture of the activities of the islamist groups in Northern Mali and the genuine agitation by the Touregs for a separate state, which has been on since about 1967. These two will have to be properly separated for our troops to be able to identify who they are going to be fighting, otherwise the situation may end up being worse than the case in Afghanistan and Iraq, where, years after foreign military interventions, bloodletting has never stopped for a day,” the source added.
Saturday Sun had reported on October 27, 2012 that the operational base of Boko Haram had been traced to Mali. The report, entitled: “Uncovered – Boko Haram base traced to Mali, stated: “The search for a lasting solution to the perennial campaign of violence by the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, has taken President Goodluck Jonathan and his National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Dasuki (retd) to Bamako, the capital of Mali, for a secret meeting with the civilian and military authorities in the troubled West African country, following a strong intelligence report which shows that Mali’s northern region is being used as the operational base of the dreaded sect.
“The presidency had, in a statement by presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, announced on Wednesday, October 17 a two-day working visit by President Jonathan to Niger Republic and Mali. While the president was scheduled to attend a meeting of the High Authority of the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission, in Niamey, with President Issoufou Mohammadou of Niger Republic to revitalise and reposition the 41-year-old commission, as a primary platform towards addressing emerging cross-border challenges, the statement added that on his way back on Friday, October 19, he would make a stopover in Bamako, the Malian capital, for further consultations on efforts by ECOWAS and the UN Security Council, to restore normalcy to that country.
“Saturday Sun, however, gathered from diplomatic and presidency sources that the meeting in Niamey was a mere decoy for President Jonathan to ‘seek collaboration and cooperation of both the military and civilian authorities in Mali on how best the operational base of Nigeria’s Boko Haram in the north of Mali, which is under the firm control of Islamist groups and Tuareg rebels, who took control of the region following a coup in March.’
“A reliable diplomatic source revealed that rather than making just a stopover in Bamako, as announced by Abati in his statement, “the Nigerian president actually left Niamey, Niger Republic on Thursday, October 18 and went straight for the main goal of his trip, which is to hold talks with the Malian authorities, as part of efforts to dismantle the main structure of Boko Haram in the North of the country (Mali).”
It was gathered that a recent intelligence support for Nigeria had confirmed that Boko Haram militants were being trained and armed in northern Mali, where the leader of the sect, Sheik Mohammed Shekau, is also believed to be hiding and coordinating attacks on Nigerian targets.
“Based on this, the diplomatic source revealed that Nigeria became more interested in the politics and political stability of Mali. The military junta in Mali, headed by Captain Amadou Sanogo, had seized power on March 22, accusing the democratic government of President Amadou Toumani Toure of failing to deal effectively with a Tuareg rebellion that had started in January. Islamist groups then took advantage of the chaos and seized all the region’s major towns, including the historic city of Timbuktu. Former parliament speaker, Diouncounda Traore later emerged as interim president, following international pressures on the military junta to relinquish power.
It was further gathered that President Jonathan’s last week visit was to consolidate on recent visits and discussions by the NSA and some top officials of the defence and foreign affairs ministries to Mali. Part of the discussions, at the meeting, between President Jonathan and Mali’s interim president Traore, was ‘to stabilise the civilian regime of Traore, mobilise African and ECOWAS forces to Mali, with a view to flushing out all islamist groups and rebels, including Boko Haram leaders that had taken control of North of Mali.’
“In a separate discussion with Captain Sanogo, President Jonathan was said to have offered him a political asylum in Nigeria to pave the way for Traore’s full control of Mali’s armed forces, which are still loyal to Sanogo. ‘If the Nigerian government can get Traore relocated to Nigeria, the stability Nigeria needs in Mali to fight its own enemy hiding and operating from our territory would have been achieved half-way,’ a diplomatic source privy to the development told Saturday Sun.
“It was, however, not yet clear at press time whether Traore has accepted the offer of asylum from President Jonathan. ‘What is certain is the success of the war against Boko Haram depends largely on the stability in Mali and the ability of the African and the entire international community to dislodge all rebels and Islamist groups operating in northern Mali because if you observe closely, they share the same religious ideology and modus operandi with Boko Haram militants. If you follow developments there, you will notice that the Islamists have imposed a harsh interpretation of Sharia in the areas they control in the north of Mali and there are reports of people being stoned to death and having their limbs amputated,’ the source added.”