Tuesday, August 11, 2020

RLPB 562. Nigeria (2): Insecurity Enables Terrorist Expansion

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 562 | Wed 12 Aug 2020
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)

Part 1: Christian Crisis in Kaduna [RLPB 561 (5 Aug)]
Part 3 will be the subject of next week's RLPB 563
By Elizabeth Kendal


ORIGINS: Boko Haram (also known as the 'Nigerian Taliban') was founded in 2002, in Nigeria's north-eastern state of Borno, by a religious teacher named Mohammed Yusuf. The group took up militancy and by 31 July 2009, Yusuf was dead (in custody). On 9 August 2009 Boko Haram (BH) issued a statement lauding Yusuf as a martyr and declaring jihad with the aim of rendering Nigeria ungovernable and imposing Islam by force. In June 2010 BH - now led by Abubakar Shekau - formalised its ties with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), giving it access to training, funding and advanced weapons. In June 2011 BH bombed the UN headquarters in the capital, Abuja: a clear declaration of war!

Abubakar Shekau (Nov 2018)
"the longest-lasting jihadist leader globally"
(Jamestown Foundation, 28 July 2020)
FIRST SPLIT: Between 2011 and 2013, BH targeted government offices, markets, businesses, churches, mosques and schools across the north, mostly in Kaduna, Kano and Plateau, mostly using suicide bombers. Shekau is a takfiri: i.e. one who deems Muslims who disagree with him as apostates deserving death. The group suffered a split in 2012 when AQIM-trained jihadist Khalid al-Barnawi broke away in protest against Shekau's indiscriminate killing of Muslims. With AQIM's permission, K.al-Barnawi formed Jama'at Ansar al-Muslimin fi Bilad al-Sudan (Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa), popularly known as 'Ansaru'. Divided and lacking local support, BH and Ansaru abandoned the Northwest in 2014. BH returned to the Northeast and set up base in Borno, while al-Qaeda affiliate Ansaru opted to maintain sleeper cells across the Northwest.

SECOND SPLIT: In March 2015 Shekau pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS). However, in August 2016, IS emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi demoted Shekau and appointed Abu Musab al-Barnawi (son of BH founder Mohammed Yusuf) as leader of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in his place. Furious, Shekau denounced A.M.al-Barnawi as an 'infidel' and split from the group. Shekau's BH faction, also known as Jama'atu Ahlissunnah Lidda'awati Wal Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad) or JAS, is based in Borno State's Sambisa Forest (about 60 km south-east of Maiduguri), while its Bakura faction is located in the Chad Basin (in the Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad tri-border region). In February 2019 ultra-radical elements within ISWAP ousted A.M.al-Barwani in a bloodless coup, having rejected his al-Qaeda-inspired 'Long War' strategy which involves winning Muslim hearts and minds while targeting 'apostate' government, army and other bodies. His replacement, Umar al-Barnawi (also known as Ba Idrissa), follows the IS strategy of 'Caliphate Now! Whatever it takes! No mercy!'

These three jihadist factions - Al-Qaeda affiliate Ansaru, IS affiliate ISWAP, and Shekau's BH/JAS - have the same goal: a Caliphate. Personality issues aside, they differ only on strategy. They all view Christians as the enemy and Christianity as a problem to be eliminated.


Praying for peace: 2nd 'Black Sunday' service, Kaduna, 9 Aug 2020
(images courtesy Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
click on collage to enlarge


Analysts are warning that gross insecurity is paving the way for Boko Haram/JAS (Shekau faction), Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Al-Qaeda affiliate 'Ansaru' to make a comeback in Nigeria's Northwest Region. In a report for Jamestown Foundation published 28 July, terrorism analyst Jacob Zenn sounds the alarm: 'Nigeria should approach Boko Haram, ISWAP and Ansaru in Northwestern Nigeria as the most serious security crisis since the insurgency began [in 2010].' He warns that, while Boko Haram and ISWAP are relatively contained in Borno amongst their ethnic Kanuri kin, if these groups get a foothold among the Fulani in the Northwest, then nothing 'will prevent their continued expansion until northern Nigeria becomes overwhelmed ...' If security is not improved, and if the government does not address the issues that make recruitment attractive - i.e. poverty and ideology (specifically Wahhabi ideology imported from Saudi Arabia) - then Nigeria could come to resemble Syria 2013-2017, with heavily-armed and internationally-backed al-Qaeda and IS-aligned terrorist organisations in control of the north.

On 15 June BH/JAS released a video in which Shekau sent greetings to the group's 'brothers' in the Northwest's Zamfara State. On 10 July Nigeria's Defence Headquarters (DHQ) warned that terrorists from the Northeast were moving to the Northwest with sophisticated weapons. On 7 August AQIM-affiliate, Ansaru, claimed to have attacked a Nigerian Army position in Kaduna State, allegedly resulting in 25 'apostates' being killed and 10 wounded. Analysts suspect that Ansaru is recruiting Fulani herdsmen and bandits into its ranks and that Ansaru jihadists, posing as herdsmen and bandits, are participating in the Fulani jihad.

See also:  VIDEO (8:29 mins), TVC News Nigeria, 6 Aug 2020
Al-Qaeda Expanding in Nigeria, United States Warns Nigeria

Major General Ibrahim Manu Yusuf, the Nigerian-born commander
of the MultiNational Joint Task Force, is seen in Mora, Cameroon,
with DRR director Oumar Bichair, 7 August 2020.
(Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA
Cameroon's Centre for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) was established in Mora, in Cameroon's Extreme North region in 2019. The centre works to rehabilitate ex-militants who surrender to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) in return for amnesty. The program is not 'de-radicalising' Islamist prisoners, which rarely works. On the contrary, it is rehabilitating those who, having risked their lives to escape, have surrendered and are seeking rehabilitation. The facility was built to handle 100 ex-militants at a time; it is currently hosting more than 250. On 7 August Voice of America reported that 109 people had surrendered to the MJTF in the past two weeks. The 109 comprised 45 Nigerian and 3 Cameroonian ex-militants, 45 Nigerian children and 16 women who had been kept as sex-slaves. All of them - including the fighters who had joined voluntarily - report being held captive, threatened with execution should they try to escape, and fed the lie that MJTF soldiers will kill them. Centre director Oumar Bichair has appealed for more resources to accommodate the increasing numbers. They need facilities, workers, psychologists and people who can train ex-fighters in literacy and trade skills. The Church has done this before, for example in northern Uganda; the Church can do it again.


* intervene in Nigeria to bless, protect and empower those who would 'turn back the battle at the gate' (from Isaiah 28:5-6).

* frustrate every wicked plot devised by violent men; may Nigeria be liberated from the threat of Islamic terror once and for all.

'As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvellous things without number ... He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success ... So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth' (From Job 5:8-16 ESV).

* move powerfully by his Spirit through Borno's terrorist base-camps to bring hope and courage to those held captive behind a wall of terror and lies; may the dam be breached so that the trickle of defectors might become a flood. Lord have mercy!

* protect Cameroon's Centre for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration and supply it with everything it needs to rehabilitate disillusioned and traumatised men, women and children who have risked their lives in search of new life.

'Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful ... [He] preserves the simple [naive, seducible] ... he saved me' (Psalm 116:5-6 ESV).


On 10 July Nigeria's Defence Headquarters (DHQ) warned that terrorists based in Northeast Nigeria – i.e. Boko Haram (BH) and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) - were moving to the Northwest with sophisticated weapons. On 28 July terrorism analyst Jacob Zenn warned that if these groups get a foothold amongst the Fulani in the Northwest, then nothing 'will prevent their continued expansion until northern Nigeria becomes overwhelmed'. Analysts already suspect that al-Qaeda affiliate, Ansaru, is recruiting Fulani herdsmen and bandits into its ranks and participating in the Fulani jihad. Meanwhile, Cameroon's Centre for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (launched 2019, in Extreme North region) reports that growing numbers of mostly-Nigerian ex-militants, children and women (sex-slaves) are escaping, surrendering and seeking rehabilitation. The Centre needs help to meet the growing demand. Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com