Last week, a church in Benue, Nigeria was attacked when 2 gunmen opened fire on a Mass Service killing 19 including 2 priests. CNN reported the Nigerian government saying this was a dispute over cattle which is a major export for Nigeria. Stealing those cattle, or cattle rustling as it was known in the American West, is a steady source of income for the Nigerian ISIS affiliate, Boko Haram. It’s worth noting, that that revenue source predates any ISIS affiliation and has nothing to do with ideology.
— Ahram Online (@ahramonline) May 1, 2018
Today, news is breaking of two explosions at a mosque in northern Nigeria near where the attacks on the church occurred. Reports indicate 20 worshippers have been killed. It is textbook Boko Haram operation: first suicide bomber goes in and detonates while the second suicide bomber detonates near the exit as victims are fleeing.
The kind of attack on the church last week does not fit with the profile of Boko Haram since they declared allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014, but rather more in line with the organized criminal behavior Boko Haram practiced before becoming religious zealots. The more organized radical wing of Boko Haram would have kidnapped girls and sold them for money or ransom. A tactic for consolidating power used by the Islamic State and their parent Al Qaeda is to silence any Islamic voice that would oppose their brutal rule, hence the mosque. Attacking churches comes after everyone in the Muslim community is on the same page and stealing cattle is just for money. Boko Haram is still very new at this, after all.
The United States is becoming more and more engaged with radical Islamists all over the African continent and it must understand these local dynamics and learn from past insurgencies moving forward. There appears to be an old Boko and a new Boko; it would be a colossal mistake to fail to differentiate between the two. With Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari visiting President Trump just yesterday it is clear the United States is going to become more involved in Africa not less.
A job worth doing is worth doing right.